If you see signs of abuse or suspect the neglect of the child, you want to do everything possible to keep that child safe. Reporting the people responsible for the abuse/neglect is an important step. Here's what you need to do to protect the child.
Alert the Parents
Not all abuse is from parents, but from other family members. Where this is the case, talk to the parents and alert them of the problem. The parents may not be aware of the abuse. After alerting the parents, given them time to handle the situation. If you feel the parents are not taking the situation seriously, then you should take action.
It may help to have some proof when you do this. If the child abuse is by another family member or a new partner, the parents may not want to believe you without proof. When parents refuse to do anything or when it is the parents potentially abusing their child, you will need to report to your local child welfare authority. This will most likely be the local social services department.
Keep in mind, you need to be certain the abuse is not the parents. For obvious reasons, you should not talk to the parents about the abuse if the parents are the abuser as this could make the situation worse.
Whether discussing with the parents or reporting to child services, being as detailed as possible will help. The behavior needs to be neglectful or harming the child in some way: mentally, emotionally, or physically.
You don't need to prove neglect, especially when reporting to social services. The details will help social services know the type of things to look out for during a visit. Details alert social services to potential similar situations to consider when visiting.
Continue to Report
Social services may not have enough to act at first. Whenever you see something abusive, contact social services again and keep giving information. As alerts build up, the experts will be able to delve further into the life of the child.
Avoid getting angry with those you are reporting the situation to. They can't do anything themselves and won't be able to answer all of your questions. Most of the time, they won't be able to tell you if visits have occurred or if action is being taken.
Calling the Police
When the abuse is clear and in front of you, you may feel like this is an emergency situation. Contact 911 to get the police involved, again, being as detailed as possible. The dispatcher will need to know where you are. Remain at the scene, as you will need to give a statement to help the welfare of the child.
It is possible to report child abuse anonymously if you wish. This won't affect the case, but it can make it harder for witness statements should something go to court. Be aware of this, so you can do the best thing for the child involved. For more information, talk to a professional like Nelson, McPherson Summers & Santos LC.