Everyone in Maryland Is Obligated Under the Law to Report Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect

All citizens of Maryland are obligated to report suspected abuse (Maryland Family Law 5-705) to Child Protective Services or law enforcement, and the State’s Attorney’s Office.

You are not responsible for investigating or collecting evidence of abuse or neglect, but you are required to report suspected abuse and neglect. You do not need to have proof that abuse, or neglect has occurred to make a report. Incidents are to be reported as quickly as possible and waiting for or looking for proof may put a child at risk of great harm and interfere with the investigation. You are immune from civil liability and criminal penalty for reporting when you have reason to believe abuse or neglect (Maryland Family Law 5-708). 

There are specific legal requirements for individuals who come into contact with children and youth because of the nature of the work they do. Maryland law defines these individuals as mandated reporters

A mandated reporter is required to make an oral report as soon as possible to Child Protective Services or law enforcement, and the State’s Attorney’s Office as well as follow-up with a written report to Child Protective Services within 48 hours when child abuse is suspected (Maryland Family Law 5-704). A copy of the written report and the date and time the verbal report was made should be included in the report.

A mandated reporter could lose their license for failing to report. There are also criminal penalties if a mandated reporter interferes with the making of a report, they may be subject to professional sanctions by their licensing board, civil liability, and criminal penalties. It’s a misdemeanor - up to three years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.

If a mandated reporter is acting as a staff member of a child-care institution or a youth-serving organization, then they must immediately notify and give all information to the head of the institution or organization

Where to report suspected child abuse or neglect?

1-800-91-PREVENT (1-800-917-7383)

The Maryland Department of Human Services (DHS) has established a hotline in an effort to protect and preserve family well-being.

This 24-hour CPS/APS Hotline streamlines the process of abuse and neglect reporting. Residents of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City should call the CPS/APS Hotline to report suspected child or adult maltreatment. Marylanders are encouraged to call the hotline for information about preventative services, resources, and support.

Did you know…?

  • You must report suspected abuse.
  • Mandating reporting applies to survivor cases.
  • You have good faith immunity.
  • Reporting is confidential.

For more information about reporting, please take Center for Hope’s Reporting Suspected Child Abuse Online Training.


Who should report suspected child abuse or neglect?

All Maryland citizens should report suspected child abuse or neglect to Child Protective Services or to a local law enforcement agency. Ensuring the safety of Maryland’s children is an obligation shared by all citizens and organizations. If you are a mandated reporter, you are required by law to report both orally and in writing any suspected child abuse or neglect.

Am I a Mandated Reporter?

You are likely a mandated reporter if you work in a child-friendly or child-serving field. Maryland law defines this category of professionals broadly, and includes:

• Health Practitioners
• Police Officers
• Educators
• Human Service Workers

Are there penalties for not reporting?

If Child Protective Services has reason to believe that a mandated reporter knowingly failed to make a report of suspected abuse or neglect of a child, then Child Protective Services must file a complaint with the appropriate licensing board or employer of the mandated reporter.

There are also criminal penalties for a mandated reporter who knowingly fails to report child abuse. It’s a misdemeanor - up to three years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine.

What Information is needed to make a report?

The information needed to make a report includes:

• The name and home address of the child and the parent or other individual responsible for the care of the child;
• The present location of the child;
• The age of the child (or approximate age);
• Names and ages of other children in the home;
• The nature and extent of injuries or sexual abuse or neglect of the child
• Any information relayed by the individual making the report of previous possible physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
• Information available to the individual reporting that might aid in establishing the cause of the injury or neglect;
• The identity of the individual or individuals responsible for abuse or neglect

The person at CPS receiving your report will request additional information in order to obtain the most comprehensive and complete information possible to inform decision making and subsequent agency actions.

What are the steps to make a report?

Here are the steps to follow:

Collect the information necessary to make a report.

Call the 24-hour CPS hotline at 1-800-91-PREVENT (1-800-917-7383) or local law enforcement agency to report suspected child abuse or neglect. The CPS hotline is for residents of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City to report suspected child maltreatment. Marylanders are encouraged to also call the hotline for information about preventative services, resources, and support.

If you work at a hospital, public health agency, child-care institution, juvenile detention center, school or similar institution you must also immediately notify the head of the institution or their designee. NOTE: Internal reporting to the head of an institution does NOT replace a person’s mandatory duty to report the abuse to local departments and law enforcement. These laws supersede any policy of an agency.

Submit a written report (form DHR/SSA 180) to the local department of child protective services within 48 hours. Also send a copy of the report to the local State’s Attorney’s.

I'm afraid to make a report. What if I am wrong?

It's okay to be wrong. If you suspect a child is suffering from abuse or neglect but are afraid you are wrong, consider the following facts about reporting:

• You can report confidentially and anonymously
• Reporting gives children a voice
• Reporting allows children to get help, even if the allegations are not substantiated
• If a report is not made, an investigation will not be conducted, and the child will not receive services
• Children cannot protect themselves. Adults must protect children.

What are the long-term effects of child maltreatment?

Child victims of abuse and neglect face a lifetime of negative consequences, unless they receive an intervention and treatment. Decades of research clearly indicate children who suffer the trauma of abuse and maltreatment are at an increased risk of suffering from a multitude of devastating short-term and life-long consequences. These children are more likely to develop behavioral problems, have trouble in school, engage in substance abuse, become repeat victims and become perpetrators of violent criminal behavior as adults:

• Victims of child maltreatment average 47% higher delinquency rates relative to children not indicated for abuse or neglect,[1] and 59% higher adult arrest rates.[2]
• Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime;[3]
• Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy;[4]
• As many as two‐thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse report being abused or neglected as children;[5] and
• About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children.[6]

What does the research say about child sexual abuse?

Child sexual abuse is prevalent, underreported, and occurs across all socioeconomic, racial and geographic lines:

• 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused by the time they are 18 years[7] old,
• Only 38% of child victims disclose the fact that they have been sexually abused and [8] , of these, 40% tell a close friend, rather than an adult or authority,[9]
• 90% of victims know their abuser and 30% are abused by family members.[10]
• 1 in 5 of 11,800 runaways reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2015 were likely sex trafficking victims.[11]

Is child sex trafficking child abuse?

• Individuals under the age of 18 who are objectified and caused to engage in commercial sex acts at the hands of another individual are considered victims of sex trafficking under Maryland law even when force, fraud or coercion are not used.[12]
• Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) is defined as, “sexual abuse by the adult and remuneration in cash or kind to the child or a third person or persons...and includes prostitution of children, child pornography, child sex tourism, and other forms of transactional sex.[13]

[1] Ryan, Joseph P., and Mark F. Testa. "Child Maltreatment and Juvenile Delinquency: Investigating the Role of Placement and Placement Instability." Children and Youth Services Review 27.3 (2005): 227-49. 

[2] Wisdom, Cathy S., and Michael G. Maxfield. "An Update on the “Cycle of Violence”." Research in Brief (n.d.): n. pag. National Institute of Justice, Feb. 2001. Web. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij.

[3] Long ‐ Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. Child Welfare Information Gateway.Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006. Web. http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/long_term_consequences.cfm

[4] Smith, C.A., T.O. Ireland, and T.P. Thornberry, "Adolescent Maltreatment and Its Impact on Young Adult Antisocial Behavior" Child Abuse & Neglect 29(10) (2005): 1099–1119

[5] Swan, N. (1998). Exploring the role of child abuse on later drug abuse: Researchers face broad gaps in information. NIDA Notes, 13(2). Retrieved from the National Institute on Drug Abuse website: www.nida.nih.gov/NIDA_Notes/NNVol13N2/exploring.html

[6] Long‐Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect.

[7] Finkelhor, D., Hotaling, G., Lewis, I. A., & Smith, C. (1990). Sexual abuse in a national survey of adult men and women: Prevalence, characteristics and risk factors. Child Abuse & Neglect 14, 19-28. doi:10.1016/0145-2134(90)90077-7

[8] London, K., Bruck, M., Ceci, S., & Shuman, D. (2003) Disclosure of child sexual abuse: What does the research tell us about the ways that children tell? Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 11(1), 194-226.

[9] Broman-Fulks, J. J., Ruggiero, K. J., Hanson, R. F., Smith, D. W., Resnick, H. S., Kilpatrick, D. G., & Saunders, B. E. (2007). Sexual assault disclosure in relation to adolescent mental health: Results from the National Survey of Adolescents. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 36, 260 – 266.

[10] Finkelhor, D. (2012). Characteristics of crimes against juveniles. Durham, NH: Crimes against Children Research Center.

[11] "Child Sex Trafficking - 1 in 6 Runaways." Child Sex Trafficking - 1 in 6 Runaways. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. http://www.missingkids.org/1in5.

[12] "Legislation." Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org/legislation.

[13] "Glossary." Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016. http://www.mdhumantrafficking.org/definitions/.