End Anonymous Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting (Maintaining “Confidential” Reporting)
Children who are safe at home should not be traumatized by unnecessary and disruptive investigations into their family life. As many as 53% of African American children have been subject to a child abuse investigation. Single mothers are also disproportionately affected by Hotline calls. Investigations can be initiated by anyone, including anonymous callers who have an agenda to cause harm to another parent.
Anonymous tips have increasingly become a way that disgruntled relatives, neighbors, or others in the community harass innocent families, while wasting the valuable and limited resources of state and local authorities. This hurts the children who are actually in danger of abuse and neglect.
Anonymous reporting has very low rates of substantiation—a study found just 1.5% of Hotline calls from anonymous sources are deemed substantiated by CPS authorities.
In some cases, children in real danger of abuse have not been found in time because anonymous tips have steered authorities to the wrong location.
Investigations of meritless calls waste precious child welfare resources.
Congress should end the use of anonymous reporting, instead ensuring that reports are made confidentially.
Ending anonymous reporting will not prevent Hotline calls based on a genuine objective concern about the wellbeing of a child that merits investigation. In fact, this measure will help streamline and target investigative resources to children most in need of protection.
United Family Advocates is actively working on legislative fixes to the terrible problem, discussed at length in this 2015 article. Now civil rights activist/journalist Shaun King's family has brought attention to the plight of families who are victims of vindictive calls. We are working with Prof. Cecka and other child welfare reform leaders to fix the law so families are no longer terrorized by abusive anonymous calls.