A report is a statement that someone is concerned for a child’s welfare. That someone is you.
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Where to file your report
Child Protection Services (CPS) is the public agency given authority, by law, to provide for the protection of children in their homes, schools and childcare situations.
North Dakota’s Child Protection program is supervised by the North Dakota Department of Human Services, Children and Family Services Division. County social service offices act as authorized agents to receive reports of suspected child abuse and neglect and conduct assessments of those reports. They are not under the direct supervision of the state.
File your report with the county social services agency where the child is at the time of the report. You can report by phone, by fax, or in person.
- Use State Reporting Form 960. It’s available from all county social service offices and online at: http://www.nd.gov/eforms/Doc/sfn00960.pdf. If you access the form online, fill it out, print it out, and take it or send it to the county social services agency.
- County social service locations: http://www.nd.gov/dhs/locations/countysocialserv/
If the child is in immediate danger, call 911 right away and file your report after the child is safe.
What to include in the report
When you file a report, give the following information to the best of your ability.
- Names of the children suspected of being abused or neglected
- Names of the persons suspected of harming a child, and their relationship to the child
- Birth dates or ages of all children involved
- Parent or guardian's name and address
- As much specific information as you know about the suspected abuse and neglect
Attach to the report any documents that support the facts of the report.
Mandated reporters are required to follow up a verbal report with a written report within 48 hours. The written report must contain any requested information the reporter knows.
Should you tell the parents that you’ll be reporting?
There are times when you shouldn’t discuss your report with the parent, including:
- If you believe the child will be in danger if the parents know the child disclosed information to you
- If you believe the parent might disappear with the child
- If the abuse might be a crime, such as serious physical or sexual abuse
At other times, this decision requires delicate judgment. If you’re in doubt, talk about it with the county social services agency before contacting the family.
- If a child is in immediate danger, call 911 before notifying parents and before you report.
- If a child isn’t in immediate danger, consider talking to the parents or guardian before reporting. Being honest and forthright may help you keep a working relationship with them.
If you’re afraid of a display of anger or violence when you tell a parent or guardian, explain that the law doesn’t give you a choice whether or not to report. Let them know that you care about them and will do everything you can do to see that they receive help. Let them know that their problem is not unique and can be solved. If you can continue to work with them, you can help prevent further abuse.
Is your report confidential?
Mandated reporters should provide the county social service agency with their name in order to document that they have met their legal mandate.
County social services cannot reveal the name of a person who reports suspected child abuse and neglect. The reporter’s name remains confidential—with certain exceptions. The reporter’s identity may be revealed to:
- The subject of a report, if the requirement for services is appealed and the information is needed for the appeal
- Staff of the North Dakota Department of Human Services, county social services, children's advocacy centers, child protection team, and citizen review committee
- Public officials who need the information to perform their job
- Courts that determine that the information is necessary to decide an issue
- Researchers approved by the North Dakota Department of Human Services Institutional Review Board
Anonymous reports are accepted from anyone, but the only way mandated reporters will have proof of meeting the legal mandate is to sign their name.
Reporting pregnant women who abuse alcohol, use illegal drugs, or misuse legal drugs
If you suspect that a pregnant woman has abused alcohol, used illegal drugs, or misused legal drugs that may harm her unborn child, you may talk to her before reporting. If she voluntarily agrees to enter treatment in a licensed treatment program, no report is necessary. If she doesn’t agree to enter treatment, or drops out of treatment, you should report it.
Your report should identify the woman, what drug and how much is being used, and your name and address. You cannot report anonymously, but information identifying you will remain private unless you authorize the social worker to share it.
Reporting past abuse
If the child is still under age 18, you should report any past unreported abuse or neglect that you learn about or suspect.
After you submit your report, a county social worker assigned to conduct an assessment of your report will talk to:
- The child
- The caregiver responsible for the child’s welfare
- The person suspected of abusing or neglecting the child
- Others who may know about the child, the family, or the circumstances
At the first contact with the person suspected of abusing or neglecting a child, the social worker must inform the person of the specific concerns in the report.
Under the law, assessments can include the child’s home, school, or childcare facility, as well as the circumstances surrounding the report.
Interviews on school property
- Under North Dakota Century Code 50-25.1-05, a social worker or law enforcement may interview a child on school property. They will first notify the school principal or other appropriate school administrator.
- The school administrator may not disclose the nature of the notification, or any other related information concerning the interview, to anyone, including people responsible for the child's welfare.
- When an interview is conducted on school property, the school administrator and department or law enforcement agency will make every effort to minimize the disruption of the educational program of the child, other students, or school staff.
When a child may be taken into protective custody
A child may be taken into custody by a law enforcement officer if there are reasonable grounds to believe that:
- The child is suffering from illness or injury or is in immediate danger from his surroundings
- The child has run away from his parents, guardian, or other custodian
A medical professional may keep a child in custody in a hospital or medical facility, after advising the parents about the suspicion of abuse or neglect, for up to 96 hours (4 days). The medical professional must immediately inform the Juvenile Court and county social services so that protective steps can be taken.
A court can order temporary custody of a child to a county social service agency.
If you make an honest report, you’re protected against liability.
If you make an honest report, in good faith, you cannot be held liable for any damages or charged with any crime for reporting.
North Dakota Century Code Section 50-25.1-09 (Immunity from Liability) says: "Any person, other than the alleged violator, participating in good faith in the making of a report, assisting in an investigation or assessment, furnishing information, or in providing protective services...is immune from any liability, civil or criminal...."
The law also protects reporters from retaliation by their employer for making a report in good faith.
A false report is a report that is intentionally dishonest or is not made “in good faith.” A report that is made out of genuine concern for a child’s well-being is not considered a false report, even if the facts gathered during the assessment don’t confirm that the child was neglected or abused.
County Social Services has no authority to take action when false reporting is suspected. Instead, false reports are sent to law enforcement or the State’s Attorney.
- Anyone who intentionally makes a false report, or provides false information which causes a report to be made, may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
- If the false report is made to a law enforcement official, the person may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
- A person who intentionally makes a false report may also be liable in a civil action.