The Bridge: Mandatory reporting for suspected child abuse and neglect

Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 4:45 PM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Over 180 children died in Texas last year because of abuse and neglect, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

In the state of Texas, we have civil and criminal laws to protect children from abuse and neglect, such as ‘mandatory reporting’.

Under Texas Family Code 261.101, anyone who suspects a child has been abused or neglected must immediately make a report.

The Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center says if you suspect something is happening to a child, you are required to report it to the DFPS or your area law enforcement.

“If they feel like that child is in immediate danger they need to reach out to their local law enforcement and they will be able to respond faster than making that report to the statewide hotline number,” said Shelly Bohannon, executive director, the Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center.

The Bridge says we’re all responsible for the children in our community.

“A lot of times those who are hurting the kids are the ones who are responsible for them, the parents, they’re those who are related to them and so if they are the ones who are hurting them, obviously they’re not going to be the ones who are reporting it,” said Bohannon.

There are many different signs to look for that may indicate abuse or neglect.

“You might look for certain behaviors, obviously bruises, any kind of physical injury might be an indication of physical abuse or sexual abuse,” said Bobbi Britto, clinical director of mental health, the Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center.

Britto says indicators go beyond the obvious ones.

“You might see some withdrawing behaviors, you might see grades dropping, you might see children being angry, fighting more and you might even see them doing things like inappropriately and inappropriate advanced knowledge of sexual content, behavior, things of that nature,” said Britto.

Under state law, if you do not report suspected child abuse or neglect it is a criminal offense and you can be charged.

“The bigger picture of that is they’re leaving that child in danger,” said Bohannon.

To report to DFPS, you can call the 24-hour, toll-free abuse hotline at 1-800-252-5400.

The identity of the reporter is confidential and is not revealed to anyone but law enforcement, unless disclosure is ordered by a court.