241-KIDS: Frequently Asked Questions
241-KIDS (5437) is Hamilton County’s 24/7 hotline for reporting suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. HCJFS has the statutory responsibility to receive and respond to reports of child abuse and neglect in Hamilton County. Specially trained caseworkers staff the hotline. Their questions are designed to collect the necessary information to make an initial determination of suspected abuse or neglect.
When should I call 241-KIDS?
If you suspect that a child under the age of 18 (or age of 21, if the child is developmentally disabled or physically impaired) has been abused or neglected, call as soon as you become aware of a problem. If you believe a situation is an emergency, call 911 first. Law enforcement will involve 241- KIDS/Children’s Services.
Do I have to give my name?
Unless you are a mandated reporter, you may report anonymously if you choose, but you are encouraged to give your name and contact information. A report of suspected child abuse and neglect is confidential. Your identity will not be released or affirmed to anyone without your written consent, except through court process. If you are a mandated reporter, you may be required to follow up your verbal report in writing, usually if a report is based on specific diagnostic information.
What kind of questions will I be asked?
You will be asked to provide the following information to help determine how to respond to your report:
- Name, address and age of the child you suspect is being abused or neglected
- Name and address of the parent guardian or custodian of the child
- Race and ethnicity of the child and family members
- Reason you suspect the child is being abused or neglected
- Specific details of the abuse or neglect (what, when, where)
- If child has received medical care for any injuries, if known
- Circumstances which may have led to the incident
- Child’s current condition and location
- Name of the person you suspect is abusing or neglecting the child
- Relationship between the child and the person suspected of abuse or neglect
- Level of access between the alleged suspect and the child
- Names and ages of any other children in the home
- Relationship of other children in the home to the alleged victim
- Whether the reporter suspects child abuse or neglect involving the other children
- Previous reports on this child
- Any other information which may be helpful to the investigation
What happens to your report?
Some calls do not involve abuse or neglect. A 241-KIDS caseworker may refer the caller to a community agency or social service provider better suited to respond to a particular concern.
In cases of suspected abuse or neglect, many factors determine priority. The child’s age and vulnerability and the severity of the alleged abuse or neglect are among those factors. Caseworkers assess risk using agency policies and statewide assessment tools for consistent decision-making. Professionals in contact with the child may be contacted for information.
For abuse and neglect calls in Hamilton County, there are two major pathways to follow. Some reports follow the traditional investigative pathway. These are cases which may lead to court action and/or criminal charges. Other reports follow the Alternative Response pathway which works with moderate risk cases.
Within 24 hours of the report, the agency makes a screening decision and determines how quickly the agency must respond to ensure the safety of the child.
What happens during an investigation or assessment?
Children’s Services workers gather facts through interviews, observations, home visits and reports from other professionals who interact with the child. They evaluate the child’s situation and determine whether or not the allegations are substantiated. Part of the determination is to assess the risk of harm in the near future.
The caseworker utilizes assessment tools designed to gather information on the child’s safety and living environment. The caseworker does an initial assessment of the need for emergency and protective services. Investigations are made, when necessary, in cooperation with law enforcement officers who conduct any criminal investigation.
Ohio’s child abuse and neglect laws are written to provide for the safety of a child involved in a potential abuse or neglect situation. Children will be removed from the home only when sufficient protection cannot be provided to guarantee their continued safety within the home environment.
What happens if Children’s Services finds abuse or neglect?
If a child is at immediate risk of serious harm and services or voluntary efforts will not immediately reduce the risk, Children’s Services may petition juvenile court to remove the child from the home for placement in substitute care with a relative or foster family.
If the child is judged at moderate or high risk of future mistreatment, Children’s Services will make regular home visits and provide services to help the family and reduce risk to the child. Federal and state laws require that Children’s Services make “reasonable efforts” to ensure that the child remain in the “least restrictive” setting possible.
Working with the family to solve problems may involve referring the family to a variety of services such as counseling, respite care, homemaker services, parenting classes or substance abuse treatment.
At all times, the safety of the child is the primary concern.
How will I know if Children’s Services is involved?
You probably won’t. Allegations of child abuse and neglect are serious, and the privacy of victims is strictly protected. Under state law, only mandated reporters can find out if the agency will investigate.
Mandated reporters may make a reasonable number of requests for information on whether the agency has initiated an investigation, is continuing to investigate, or is otherwise involved with the child. They may also ask about the health and safety of the child and whether the report has resulted in court involvement through Juvenile Court or another court.
HCJFS 7922 (REV. 2-12)