Reporting Child Abuse
University policy and state law requires all professional TU employees to report known or suspected child abuse. A report must be made in writing and verbally within 48 hours. The requirement exists regardless of whether abuse is ongoing or occurred in the past; even if the child is now an adult. If you suspect or know of abuse, follow the guidelines below to uphold your moral and legal responsibilities.
Report Ongoing Abuse
Call 410-704-4444 immediately if you witness child abuse or neglect taking place on campus.
Decide Whether to Make a Report
You must make a report if you have reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect. If you are uncertain about reporting, consider if the information you have will enable authorities to initiate an investigation:
- Could you provide sufficient information to identify and contact the victim?
- Would the information allow authorities to determine whether the incident constituted child abuse or neglect under the law?
If you do not have the information above, you are not required to report the incident. However, you should still consider making a report if you genuinely suspect abuse or neglect.
Note that your report is considered appropriate and protected under Maryland law and TU policy as long as it is made in good faith. If you are uncertain about reporting an incident, we encourage you to contact Police Chief Joe Herring at 410-704-5913. After business hours, call the TUPD non-emergency line at 410-704-2134.
Complete and Submit Reports
You must submit verbal and written reports as soon as possible.
Verbal reports should be made as soon as possible by calling the local Child Protective Services office or police department where the incident took place. If you are unsure of the location, call the Child Protective Services office nearest to where the disclosure was made.
Additionally, you should make a verbal report to the TUPD if you learned of the abuse/neglect during your duties as a professional employee of TU; if the situation involves the university community; or if the abuse/neglect occurred on university property or in connection with a university-sponsored activity. Call Police Chief Joe Herring at 410-704-5913 during normal business hours or the campus police at 410-704-2134 after hours.
If you are a professional TU employee submitting a report about abuse/neglect that occurred in the course of your work duties, you must follow up the verbal report with a written report. The written report must be submitted within 48 hours of when your suspicions arose. It should include as much information as possible, focusing on what you directly witnessed, what has been disclosed to you, or what you’ve learned as part of your regular professional responsibilities. If you do not have sufficient information for some sections of the form, leave them blank. Do not conduct independent inquiries into the incident.
Once complete, the written report should be printed and faxed to the local Child Protective Services office, the local State’s Attorney office, and the TUPD. Take care to protect the privacy of the child by marking the report confidential.
Based on the report allegations, you may be contacted by Child Protective Services or Towson University for more information. Given state and federal child abuse confidentiality laws, it's also possible that you will not be contacted nor informed of the results of the investigation initiated by your report. If you are not contacted by Child Protective Services or TU, do not assume that your report was not adjudicated.
protections for those who report child abuse
The identity of individuals who report suspected child abuse or neglect is kept confidential by both Child Protective Services and Towson University. Maryland law and university policy offer immunity from reprisal to anyone who makes a good faith report of child maltreatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Definitions and Warning Signs
What constitutes abuse?
Abuse is defined by Maryland law as “the physical or mental injury of a child by any parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member, under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed; or sexual abuse of a child, whether physical injuries are sustained or not. Sexual abuse is defined as any act that involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child by a parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member.”
What constitutes child neglect?
Under Maryland law, neglect is defined as the failure to give proper care and attention to a child, including leaving the child unattended, by a parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of the child under circumstances indicating that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or placed at substantial risk of harm; or that there has been mental injury to the child or there is a substantial risk of mental injury. Mental injury is defined as the observable, identifiable, and substantial impairment of a child’s mental or psychological ability to function.
What are the indicators of child abuse, sexual abuse and neglect?
Indicators of child abuse may include:
- physical injuries
- unexplained bruises or a pattern of bruises
- cuts and burns
- broken bones
- welts and abrasions
- bites, marks or puncture wounds
- chipped teeth
Indicators of sexual abuse may include:
- difficulty or pain walking
- injury or reported pain and itching in groin area
- expression of sexual knowledge or behavior inappropriate for age
- verbalization of sexual involvement or victimization of other children
- sexually suggestive behavior
- pregnancy under 12 years of age
- dirty, unkept appearance
- serious untreated medical problems
- obvious malnourishment
- listlessness, fatigue
- child left unattended or without supervision
- inadequate clothing for weather
Up to what age does child abuse apply?
For the purposes of Maryland’s child abuse and neglect laws, a “child” is defined as any individual under the age of eighteen (18) years.
When is physical discipline considered child abuse?
Generally, physical discipline should be reported as abuse if it leaves an injury and either harmed the child or put the child’s health and welfare at substantial risk of harm. Child Protective Services will determine whether the punishment was abusive considering the totality of the circumstances, including the severity of the injury, nature of the punishment, gravity of the act being punished, and the adult’s attempt to use other nonphysical means of discipline.
What is the difference between child sexual abuse and sexual assault?
Under the child abuse reporting law, sexual abuse is defined as “any act that involves
sexual molestation or exploitation of a child by a parent or other person who has
permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child
or by any household or family member.” It includes a wide array of sexual conduct.
Much of what is reported to Child Protective Services as child sexual abuse also constitutes a crime such as criminal child sexual abuse, sexual assault, incest or rape. However, not every sexual assault perpetrated on a child is reportable to Child Protective Services as child sexual abuse. Unless a sexual act was perpetrated by a parent, household or family member, or other person caring for or supervising a child, it is not considered reportable “child sexual abuse” even if it constitutes sexual assault.
If you witness the sexual assault of a child or anyone else, call 911.
What is the source of the child abuse and neglect reporting requirements in the USM policy?
TU’s policy on the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect sets out the mandatory reporting requirements that are established by state law as they apply to the USM. The source of those legal requirements is a set of statutes in the Family Law Article of the Maryland Annotated Code, sections 5-701 through 5-708. The policy also applies requirements established in various opinions of the Attorney General that authoritatively interpret the Family Law Article statutes, and it includes USM-specific requirements for reporting to designated institution officials when an incident involves members of the campus community or institution-sponsored activities.
Which employees must report child abuse and neglect?
Under Maryland law, all adults in the state have an obligation to report suspected
child abuse and neglect. However, the reporting requirements for members of the USM
community are different, depending upon whether they are “professional employees.”
The law applies to health practitioners, educators/professional employees, human service workers, law enforcement officers, or other professional employees when acting in a professional capacity. “Professional employees” includes anyone employed by the USM as a faculty member, administrator, coach; as well as any other employee who provides academic support, student service or institutional support activities and whose duties require either a college degree or comparable experience.
Any of these individuals who have “reason to believe” that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect must call Child Protective Services or the local police and notify the Chief of Police. These employees must also promptly follow up the call with a written report sent to Child Protective Services, the State’s Attorney and the TUPD.
All other members of the campus community are required to call CPS or the police when they suspect abuse or neglect. They may choose to follow up with a written report, but are not required to.
How do I know if I have “reason to believe” child abuse or neglect?
The purpose of a report is to give information that enables Child Protective Services
(CPS) and the police to begin an investigation of suspected abuse or neglect. These
authorities need information sufficient to identify the child and decide whether the
incident may constitute child abuse or neglect under the law. This includes information
on whether the victim was a child (i.e., under 18) when the incident occurred; whether
the alleged perpetrator was a parent, household or family member, or other person
who had care, custody or supervision of the child when the maltreatment occurred;
and information on whether the child was injured, harmed or at substantial risk of
harm as a result of the alleged maltreatment.
If you do not have at least some of this essential information, you are not required to report the incident. However, you should still consider making a report if the facts you know genuinely lead you to suspect that child abuse or neglect occurred.
Are students required to report?
Yes, under Maryland law, all adults (18 and older) in the state have an obligation to verbally report suspected child abuse or neglect to Child Protective Services and/or the police. Students acting in an official capacity on behalf of the university may have additional obligations according to their role.
Are TU students and employees on TU-sanctioned trips or study abroad/away experiences required to report?
If an employee or student of the university learns of child abuse or neglect while traveling on a TU-sanctioned trip or as part of a study abroad/away experience, the student or employee must report to law enforcement or the social service agency in the locality where the disclosure was made.
Am I required to report abuse that occurred in the past?
Yes, reasonable suspicion of child abuse is to be reported even if the alleged abuse
occurred in the past and the victim is now an adult. This requirement was clarified
in an official Opinion of the Attorney General, 78 Op. Att’y Gen189 (1993), and is
applicable to employees and other members of the USM community.
The intent of the law is to protect all children who are subjected to or who may be vulnerable to abuse or neglect. Note that criminal prosecution of a child abuser still can take place years after the abuse was committed, and that adult victims may still benefit from services to address the effects of past child abuse or neglect.
What if the victim asks me not to report it?
Maryland law requires that you make a report whenever there is reasonable suspicion of child abuse. If the individual does not want you to report, you may explain that you are mandated by law to report in an effort to protect children who may be at risk. In this situation, explain the victim’s concerns when making the report.
If I make a report, will my name be given to the victim or individuals involved?
The name of the person who makes a report concerning abuse or maltreatment is kept
in strict confidence and is not given to the victim or other individuals involved.
Individuals who make reports are encouraged to give their names and contact information
to the person taking the report so that additional information may be obtained at
a later date if necessary. If an individual does not want to disclose his/her name,
the report is still accepted.
In some situations, authorities may seek to interview the individual who made a report as part of their investigation of the suspected maltreatment. Information obtained in an interview that takes place in the course of an investigation may be part of the eventual CPS determination and any resulting proceedings related to the maltreatment incident.
Is anyone exempt from reporting?
While you are personally responsible for reporting suspected child maltreatment in any scenario, duplicative reporting is not required under the law or university policy in the following situations:
- If you are a university employee or student working at a location off-campus where the law requires that you report suspected abuse or neglect to the head of that facility (e.g., a teaching intern assigned to a public school), you are only required to report the suspected maltreatment to Child Protective Services and the head of that facility, not to the Towson University Police Department unless the suspected abuser or neglector is an employee, contractor or volunteer of the university.
- If you and another university colleague develop a reason to believe that child abuse or neglect has occurred in the process of your work together (e.g., as members of a treatment team, or through an employee/supervisor relationship), you may file a single, joint report.
- If a disclosure of past abuse or neglect is made in a public group setting (e.g., in class or at a campus event), the individual(s) responsible for convening the group or event is responsible for making the report on behalf of the other attendees.
What do I do if I directly witness child abuse that occurs in connection with TU?
Call University Police at 410-704-4444 immediately. If you are off-campus, call 911. Provide whatever information you have about the incident. Then follow all of the other procedures for reporting suspected child abuse.
Abuse by a minor sibling
Example: A student discloses that she was sexually abused at the age of five by another
sibling who was nine at the time.
Under Maryland’s Child Abuse reporting laws, sexual abuse is defined as an “act that involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child … by any household or family member.” Given that the two children are “household members” you are mandated to report. The case worker can determine whether it should be investigated.
General abuse mentioned
Example: In a class journal a student discloses, “…. I was once abused and this is what inspired
me to choose this topic for my term paper.”
In this situation, the nature and extent of the action that the student refers to as “abuse” is vague. It is not clear what the student meant by “abuse,” and there is no indication whether the student was a child when it occurred or whether he or she experienced any injury as a result. The identity of the person who allegedly caused the abuse and their relationship with the student has not been disclosed.
Based on this limited information, “reason to believe” has not been established so a reasonable decision would be not to report. Consider, however, providing counseling information to the individual as a resource.
Specific abuse mentioned
Example: Written in a class journal, an instructor reads, “As a child growing up in New
York, I was molested and sexually abused repeatedly by my stepbrother who is 10 years
older than me.”
The type of abuse described by the student was sexual abuse, and the stepbrother was identified as the person who caused the abuse. The abuse occurred while the student was a child. Based on the information disclosed, you have reason to believe abuse occurred. You should report the incident to CPS and the university designee. Also consider providing counseling information as a resource for the individual.
Abuse mentioned at an event
Example: a person whom I do not know emerges from the crowd at a campus event and
describes past child abuse but does not identify herself at all.
In settings where many people are present during a disclosure of child abuse or neglect, only one report must be made. The USM expects that the event’s sponsors and/or supervisors will take responsibility for making a report under these circumstances.
In this example, event sponsors do not have an obligation to report if the speaker does not identify herself, or provide sufficient information about the abuse or the abuser for child protective authorities to take any action in response. However, for example, if the individual describes past child sexual abuse that involved his/her high school science teacher and provides identifying information about the school and/or the teacher, you must report. Such a report would give child protective authorities sufficient information to investigate further and, most importantly, to determine if any children currently may be at risk of abuse.