Summary of Connecticut's Child Abuse Reporting Laws
The following is an outline of the legal requirements of "mandated reporters," those professionals who, because their work involves regular contact with children, are mandated by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect. For a complete copy of the law, refer to Sections 17a-101 through 17a-103a, inclusive of the Connecticut General Statutes.
Who Must Report
Connecticut law requires certain citizens to report suspected child abuse and neglect. These mandated reporters are people in professions or occupations that have contact with children or whose primary focus is children. The law requires that they report suspected child abuse or neglect. Under Section 17a-101 of the Connecticut General Statutes, the following are considered mandated reporters:
- Any person paid to care for a child in any public or private facility, child day care center, group day care home or family day care home which is licensed by the State.
- Battered Women’s Counselors
- Dental Hygienists
- Department of Children and Families Employees
- Department of Public Health employees responsible for the licensing of child day care centers, group day care homes, family day care homes or youth camps.
- Foster Parents
- Judicial Department Employees (Family Relations Counselors, Family Counselor Trainees, Family Services Supervisors *as of 10-01-2010)
- Licensed/Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselors
- Licensed/Certified Emergency Medical Services Providers
- Licensed Marital and Family Therapists
- Licensed or Unlicensed Resident Interns
- Licensed or Unlicensed Resident Physicians
- Licensed Physicians
- Licensed Practical Nurses
- Licensed Professional Counselors
- Licensed Surgeons
- Medical Examiners
- Members of the Clergy
- Mental Health Professionals
- Parole Officers (Juvenile or Adult)
- Physical Therapists
- Physician Assistants
- Police Officers
- Probation Officers (Juvenile or Adult)
- Registered Nurses
- School Employees - as stated in section 53a-65 (subsection 13) "School employee" means: (A) A teacher, substitute teacher, school administrator, school superintendent, guidance counselor, psychologist, social worker, nurse, physician, school paraprofessional or coach employed by a local or regional board of education or a private elementary, middle or high school or working in a public or private elementary, middle or high school; or (B) any other person who, in the performance of his or her duties, has regular contact with students and who provides services to or on behalf of students enrolled in (i) a public elementary, middle or high school, pursuant to a contract with the local or regional board of education, or (ii) a private elementary, middle or high school, pursuant to a contract with the supervisory agent of such private school.
- Sexual Assault Counselors
- Social Workers
- School Coaches or Coaches of Intramural or Interscholastic Athletics
- The Child Advocate and any employee of the Office of the Child Advocate.
What Must Be Reported
Mandated reporters are required to report or cause a report to be made when, in the ordinary course of their employment or profession, they have reasonable cause to suspect or believe that a child under the age of 18 has been abused, neglected or is placed in imminent risk of serious harm. (Connecticut General Statutes §17a-101a)
Child abuse occurs where a child has had physical injury inflicted upon him or her other than by accidental means, has injuries at variance with history given of them, or is in a condition resulting in maltreatment, such as, but not limited to, malnutrition, sexual molestation or exploitation, deprivation of necessities, emotional maltreatment or cruel punishment. (Connecticut General Statutes §46b-120)
Child neglect occurs where a child has been abandoned, is being denied proper care and attention physically, emotionally, or morally, or is being permitted to live under conditions, circumstances or associations injurious to his well-being. (Connecticut General Statutes §46b-120)
When making a report, a mandated reporter is required to provide the following information, if known:
The names and addresses of the child and his parents or other person responsible for his care;
The age of the child;
The gender of the child;
The nature and extent of the child's injury or injuries, maltreatment or neglect;
The approximate date and time the injury or injuries, maltreatment or neglect occurred;
Information concerning any previous injury or injuries to, or maltreatment or neglect of, the child or his siblings;
The circumstances in which the injury or injuries, maltreatment or neglect came to be known to the reporter;
The name of the person or persons suspected to be responsible for causing such injury or injuries, maltreatment or neglect;
The reasons such person or persons are suspected of causing such injury or injuries, maltreatment or neglect;
Any information concerning any prior cases in which such person or persons have been suspected of causing an injury, maltreatment or neglect of a child;
Whatever action, if any, was taken to treat, provide shelter or otherwise assist the child (PA 11-93 §15).
How to Report
Mandated reporters must report orally to the Department of Children and Families' (DCF) Hotline or a law enforcement agency within 12 hours of suspecting that a child has been abused or neglected and must submit a written report (DCF-136 form) to DCF within 48 hours of making the oral report.
When the Mandated reporter is a member of the staff of a public or private institution or facility that provides care for children or a member of a public or private school, they must also provide written notification to the head of the facility or institution where the alleged victim is enrolled or registered. DCF is required to tape record all reports to the Careline.
Special reporting requirements may apply for staff members of a public or private institution or facility that cares for such child, or a public or private school. (See pages 4-5).
Police must report to DCF immediately upon receipt of any oral report of abuse or neglect.
Upon receipt of any oral report alleging sexual abuse or serious physical abuse or serious neglect, DCF must report to the appropriate state or local law enforcement agency within 12 hours.
Mandated reporters are required to give their name when they make a report to DCF, however, reporters may request anonymity to protect their privacy. This means that DCF would not disclose their name or identity unless mandated to do so by law (Connecticut General Statutes, Sections 17a-28 and 17a-101). Unless a reporter gives written consent, his or her name will not be disclosed except to:
- a DCF employee
- a law enforcement officer
- an appropriate state's attorney
- an appropriate assistant attorney general
- a judge and all necessary parties in a court proceeding
- a state child care licensing agency, executive director of any institution, school or facility or superintendent of schools
If DCF suspects or knows that the reporter knowingly makes a false report, his or her identity shall be disclosed to the appropriate law enforcement agency and the person may be subject to the penalty described in the next section.
Immunity and Penalty
Mandated reporters are required to make a referral to the DCF Hotline as soon as practical but no later than 12 hours after the mandated reporter becomes aware of or suspects abuse/neglect or imminent risk of serious harm to a child or children. Any person required to report who fails to make such report or fails to make such report within the time period prescribed (in sections 17a-101b to 17a-101d), could be fined not less than five hundred dollars ant not more than two thousand five hundred dollars and could be required to participate in an educational and training program (pursuant to subsection (d) of section 17a-101). The Department shall promptly notify the Chief State's Attorney when there is reason to believe that any such person has failed to make a report in accordance with this section.
Mandated reporters identified as a school employees (as defined in section 53a-65 (subsection 13) of the Connecticut General Statutes (CGS), can be subject to an investigation and the penalties stated above if they fail to make a report (OR) if they fail to make a report within the 12 hour timeframe. The Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, or the commissioner's designee, shall promptly notify the Chief State's Attorney when there is reason to believe that any such person has failed to make a report in accordance with this law.
Immunity from civil or criminal liability is granted to people who make required reports in good faith. Immunity is also granted to people who in good faith have not reported.
Anyone who knowingly makes a false report of child abuse or neglect shall be fined up to $2,000 or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both. The identity of any such person shall be disclosed to the appropriate law enforcement agency and to the perpetrator of the alleged abuse.
Employers may not discharge, discriminate or retaliate against an employee for making a good faith report or testifying in an abuse or neglect proceeding. The Attorney General can bring a court action against any employer who violates this provision, and the court can assess a civil penalty of up to $2,500 plus other equitable relief.
Informing the Family
Mandated reporters are under no legal obligation to inform parents that they have made a report to DCF about their child. However, depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary and/or beneficial to do so.
- When a child is suspected of being abused, neglected or placed at imminent risk of serious harm by a member of the staff of a private or public school or an institution that cares for the child, the person in charge of the school or facility must notify the child’s parent or other person responsible for the child’s care that a report has been made. It is DCF’s responsibility to notify the head of such school, facility or institution that a report has been made.
- Health care professionals may need to talk with parents to assess the cause of the child’s injury(ies). Mental health professionals or members of the clergy may want to talk with the parents to offer support and guidance.
However, in cases of serious physical abuse or sexual abuse, it may not be wise to talk with parents before reporting the case to DCF. This may put the child at greater risk and could interfere with a potential criminal investigation.
Investigation of Abuse or Neglect Report
DCF is responsible for immediately evaluating and classifying all reports of suspected abuse/ neglect/imminent risk. If the report contains information to warrant an investigation, DCF must make its best effort to begin an investigation within two hours if there is an imminent risk of physical harm to a child or another emergency; and within three days for all other reports. In all cases, DCF must complete the investigation in 30 calendar days.
When conducting a child abuse or neglect investigation, DCF or a law enforcement agency must coordinate activities to minimize the number of interviews with any child.
DCF must obtain consent from the parent, guardian or person responsible for the child's care for any interview, unless DCF has reason to believe such person or a member of the child's household is the alleged perpetrator. When such consent is not required, the interview must be conducted in the presence of a 'disinterested adult' (typically, a person who is impartial and has no self-interest in the case). If a disinterested adult is not available after reasonable search and immediate access is necessary to protect the child from imminent risk of serious harm, DCF or a law enforcement agency will still interview the child.
If, after the investigation has been completed, serious physical abuse or sexual abuse is substantiated, DCF must notify the local police, and either the Chief State's Attorney/designee or a state's attorney in the judicial district in which the child resides or in which the abuse occurred. A copy of the investigation report must also be sent.
Suspected Abuse By a School Employee
Mandated reporters are required to report any suspected child abuse, neglect or imminent risk of serious harm directly to DCF or the police. This includes situations when the alleged perpetrator is a school employee. DCF must notify the head of the school that a report has been made, unless such person is the alleged perpetrator.
Investigations of suspected child abuse, neglect or imminent risk of serious harm by a school employee as stated in CGS section 53a-65 (subsection 13) are conducted by DCF. If, after such investigation, DCF has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused by a school employee who holds a certificate, permit, or authorization issued by the state, DCF shall notify the employing superintendent and the Commissioner of Education of such finding and shall provide him or her with records concerning such investigation. Please use this link for additional information and changes contained in Public Act 11-93 as it pertains to suspected abuse by a school employee.
The Superintendent must suspend such employee. The suspension shall be with pay and will not diminish or terminate the employee's benefits. Within 72 hours after such suspension, the Superintendent shall notify the local or regional board of education and the Commissioner of Education of the reasons for and conditions of the suspension. The Superintendent shall disclose the DCF records to the Commissioner of Education and local or regional boards of education or their attorney for purposes of review of employment status or certification. The suspension must remain in effect until the local Board of Education takes action.
If the employee's contract is terminated, the Superintendent shall notify the Commissioner of Education or his representative within 72 hours. The Commissioner of Education may then commence certification revocation proceedings.
The Superintendent may suspend any other school staff member in similar circumstances.
The State’s Attorney must notify the Superintendent, or supervising agent of a non-public school, and the Commissioner of Education when a certified school employee, or any person holding a certificate issued by the State Board of Education, is convicted or a crime involving an act of child abuse or neglect.
Suspected Abuse By a Member of An Institution or Facility Providing Child Care
Mandated reporters are also required to report when they have reasonable cause to suspect or believe that any child has been abused or neglected by a member of the staff of a public or private institution or facility that provides care for children. DCF must notify the head of the institution or facility providing child care that a report has been made, except in circumstances when such person is the alleged perpetrator.
Whenever DCF, based on the results of an investigation, has reasonable cause to believe that that a child has been abused or neglected by a staff member of a public or private institution or facility providing child care, DCF shall notify the executive director of the institution, school, or facility in not less than five working days. DCF shall also provide records concerning the investigation to the executive director. If the facility is licensed by the state for the caring of children, DCF shall notify the state agency that licenses it and provide records concerning the investigation. Please use this link for additional information and changes contained in Public Act 11-93 as it pertains to suspected abuse by a member of an institution or facility providing child care.
DCF provides Mandated reporter training to all providers in the state of Connecticut upon request. For additional information regarding Mandated Reporter training for your organization, agency, or facility, please use this link.
WHERE TO CALL
The Department has a single point of contact statewide for the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. This Child Abuse and Neglect Careline operates 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Anyone who suspects that a child has been abused or neglected or is in danger of abuse or neglect is strongly encouraged to call the Careline.