Frequently Asked Questions

This webpage will connect you to the most frequently asked questions and answers (FAQs) on many child welfare topics, including child abuse and neglect, foster care and other out-of-home placements, adoption, and more.

If you do not find an answer to your question, you can submit a question by clicking on the Ask a Question box.

Many states accept anonymous reports of alleged child abuse and neglect. It is important to note, however, that all states are required to preserve the confidentiality of all child maltreatment reports, except in certain limited circumstances: see Disclosure of Confidential Records.

Most state laws, policies, and regulations require districts and schools to implement a bullying policy and procedures to investigate and respond to bullying when it occurs. Stopbullying.gov provides information on state antibullying laws and policies.

If you are worried that a friend may be abused or neglected, please contact Childhelp, a national organization with a 24-hour crisis hotline number (1.800.422.4453). Childhelp's staff consists of trained counselors that can listen to your concerns and connect you to the appropriate local child protection agency or other helpful services in your community. Childhelp now offers text and chat-based support for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect.

Each state provides its own policies and procedures for reporting and investigating child abuse and neglect cases. State and local agencies and courts implement these policies and procedures according to state laws.

Most states have laws authorizing a statewide central registry, which is a centralized listing of child maltreatment records.

The annual Child Maltreatment reports summarize child abuse and neglect statistics submitted by State Child Protective Services agencies to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS). These data include only those children who were reported to Child Protective Services. The reports include information on the number of victims, sources of reports, types of maltreatment, victim demographics, child fatalities resulting from abuse or neglect, perpetrators, the child welfare workforce, and more. Both national and State-by-State data are provided.

If you viewed disturbing images depicting child abuse on the internet, please contact your local child protective services or law enforcement agency so that professionals can assess the situation and intervene as needed. If you are able to determine the video's filming location, it is important to alert local authorities so they can respond. The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1.800.4.A.CHILD) offers immediate assistance. Staffed by trained counselors, Childhelp operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All calls are anonymous.

Parental substance use is generally recognized as a risk factor for child maltreatment; however, it is difficult to obtain precise, current statistics on the number of families affected by substance use issues in the absence of an ongoing, standardized, national data collection on the topic.

State child abuse and neglect reporting laws do not specify the age at which a child can be left home alone. Information about the age at which it is considered appropriate to leave a child alone may exist elsewhere in your local, county or State policies or ordinances that address this special topic.

Federal legislation provides a foundation for States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect.