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.
Q: What is 241-KIDS?
A: 241-KIDS is Hamilton County’s 24-hour line for reporting abuse or neglect of children under age 18 (or age 21 if physically, mentally or developmentally challenged). Anyone, including professionals (such as teachers and doctors), can call 241-KIDS when they have reason to believe a child is being abused or neglected.
Q: When should I call 241-KIDS?
If you suspect that a child under the age of 18 (or age 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. It is the responsibility of Children’s Services to determine if abuse or neglect is occurring. If you believe a situation is an emergency, call 911 first. Law enforcement will involve 241- KIDS/Children’s Services.
Q: What signs should I look for?
Be aware of the signs that a child is in danger. If you encounter a child through your professional or personal life who exhibits any of the following signs, report it to Children’s Services and let the professionals use their expertise to screen the circumstances.
- Unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones or black eyes.
- Sudden changes in behavior or school performance.
- Extreme compliance or extreme aggression.
- Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantrums).
- Seems extremely frightened of the parents and has reactive behaviors such as wetting their pants when it is time to go home.
- Shrinks at the approach of adults.
- Would rather spend time with a stranger than their parent or caregiver.
- Frequent school absences.
- Begs or steals food or money.
- Lacks needed medical or dental care.
- Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor.
Do Ask yourself: Do I have concerns?
If you do, Do Tell Children’s Services.
Q: 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 to anyone without your written consent, except through court process.
Q: 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
Q: What if I call 241-KIDS and Children’s Services does not find abuse or neglect?
A: If you make a report in good faith, you are immune from civil or criminal liability. Anyone who knowingly makes a false report to 241-KIDS could be charged with a misdemeanor.
Q: What happens after a call to 241-KIDS?
A: Some calls do not involve abuse or neglect. A 241-KIDS caseworker might 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, including the child’s age and the severity of the alleged abuse or neglect. 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.
Within 24 hours of the call, we will make a determination on how quickly the agency must respond to ensure the safety of the child.
Q: What happens next if a complaint prompts the agency to conduct a family assessment?
A: Children’s Services workers gather facts through interviews, home visits and reports from other professionals who interact with the child, such as the child’s teacher or day care provider. They evaluate the child’s situation and determine whether or not the allegations are substantiated. They also assess the potential for future harm. Workers sometimes collaborate with law enforcement officers who are conducting criminal investigations.
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. If a child is removed, the agency will attempt to have other family members or family friends care for the child as it works with you to strengthen your family and return your children.
Q: Will I know if Children’s Services is assessing my family?
A: Initially, you might not know. Allegations of child abuse and neglect are serious and the privacy of victims is strictly protected.
Q: How will I learn what’s going on?
A: If a Children’s Services case is opened on your family, you will be given the name and contact information for your case worker.
Q: When are children removed and put into foster care?
A: When a child cannot safely live with his or her own family, we may remove them from their parents’ home. If removal of the child is necessary, we first try to find relatives to care for the children. We believe children do best in families.
Q: What if you can’t find appropriate relatives to care for a child you’ve removed?
A: That child could be placed into foster care with a family that has gone through hours of training and becoming licensed to temporarily take care of others’ children. The goal of foster care usually is still reunification. So foster care is a temporary residence for the child while parents work with us to be ready to bring the children home again.
Q: What help will Children’s Services provide a family?
The goal is to strengthen a family so children remain safe. Each family has its own unique needs. The agency’s goal is to assess and identify those needs and then provide the help and support the family needs. This may involve parenting classes, mental health counseling, domestic violence counseling, substance abuse treatment or many other supports that assist the family to a better place. Throughout the process, families will be treated with respect and dignity as all work toward the common goal of ensuring children are safe.
Q: 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.
Q: 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.