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When is it time to call Children Protection Services?

divorce-child-protection-servicesEach state has its own version of Child Protection Services, more commonly known as CPS. In California, CPS is part of a county’s Social Services Department. The department directs any reporters of possible child abuse or neglect to call right away to report it.

Who to call?

Depending on the situation, there are different phone numbers to call:

-  In San Diego, if you suspect that a child has been abused or appears to be at risk of being abused, you should call the CPS hotline at (858)560-2191 or toll-free (800)344-6000. 
-  However, if you know that the abuse has already occurred, you are asked to call local law enforcement.
-  Finally, if you witness the child abuse in progress, you should call 911.

Who can call CPS?

Many people think they have to be related to the child in order to report child abuse or neglect. In reality, anyone can call CPS, and by law some people are legally mandated to report it, including child care providers, educators, medical professionals, mental health professionals, clergy members, and law enforcement officers.

What are the reasons for calling CPS?

Calling CPS should always be taken seriously and should never be done out of spite to punish a parent. However, not reporting child abuse or neglect could have some very serious consequences on a child, so it’s important call if you have any “reasonable suspicion” regarding a child’s health and well-being. If you are worried about your own safety, be aware that CPS keeps the reporter’s name and contact information anonymous, so the abuser will not know who made the call. The main reasons for calling CPS are:

-  A physical injury purposely inflicted on a child (not by accident) 
-  The willful harming or endangerment of a child
-  Any cruel or inhumane corporal punishment resulting in a traumatic condition|
-  The sexual abuse, assault, or exploitation of a child
-  The negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the child’s welfare, whether the negligence is accidental or purposeful

Unless you witness the child abuse or neglect as it happens, it is sometimes hard to know if it is taking place or not. Here are a few warning signs to look for if you are suspecting a child is being mistreated:

-  A child with frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, who shies away from touch and flinches at sudden movements, or is afraid to go home, may be experiencing physical abuse
-  A child who seems anxious, fearful, withdrawn, lacking in attachment to the parent, or shows a range of extreme behaviors, may be emotionally abused
-  A child wearing filthy or inappropriate clothes for the weather, displaying bad hygiene, being left alone or unsupervised for long periods of time, or missing school, may be experiencing neglect
-  A child who displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his/her age, or tries to avoid a specific person, or runs away from home, may be the victim of sexual abuse

When in doubt, it’s important to be on the safe side and make the call to CPS. A child won’t automatically be taken away without CPS investigating the situation first, so the sooner the call happens, the better.

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