Child Abuse & Neglect
RSMo 210.109 - 210.183 is state legislation that was enacted for the purpose of mandating and encouraging the reporting of child abuse to proper authorities. It places duties on certain individuals to act when child abuse is suspected. The requirement is that when such an individual has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or may be subjected to abuse or neglect, or observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect, a report must be made to the Children’s Division (formally known as Division of Family Services). If there is evidence of sexual abuse or sexual molestation of any child, the Children’s Division must be notified within 24 hours.
Abuse is defined in Missouri as “any physical injury, sexual abuse or emotional abuse inflicted on a child other than by accidental means by those responsible for the child’s care, custody and control, except that discipline including spanking, administered in a reasonable manner, shall not be construed to be abuse” (RSMo, 210.110).
Neglect is defined as failure to provide, by those responsible for the care, custody and control of the child, the proper or necessary support, education as required by law, nutrition, medical, surgical or any other care necessary for the child’s well-being.
Who Must Report
Hospital and clinic personnel engaged in examination, care or treatment of persons
Mental health professionals
Day care center workers or other child care workers
Probation or parole officers
Jail or detention center personnel
Ministers, as provided by section 352.400, RSMo.
Peace officers or law enforcement officials
or other persons with responsibility for the care of children
How to Report – Missouri Child Abuse & Neglect Hotline 1-800-392-3738
Reports to the Children’s Division (formally known as Division of Family Services) should be made either orally or in writing and should include the following information:
- The name and address, present where-abouts, sex, race and birth date or estimated age of the reported child and any other children in the household.
- The name, address and telephone number of the person responsible for the child’s care.
- Directions to the child’s home when the child’s address is general delivery, a rural route or only a town.
- Other means of locating the family.
- Parents’ or alleged perpetrators’ place of employment and work hours, if known.
- The full nature and extent of the child’s injuries, including the reason for suspecting the child has been abused or neglected.
- Any event that precipitated the report.
- An assessment of the risk of further harm to the child and, if a risk exists, whether it is imminent.
- The circumstances under which the reporter first became aware of the injuries, abuse or neglect.
- The action taken, if any, to treat, shelter, or assist the child.
- Present location of the child.
- Whether the subject of the report is aware a report is being made.
- The reporter’s name, address, work and home telephone number, profession and relationship to the child.
Any report of suspected abuse or neglect should be properly documented in the child's chart and reported to supervisors according to agency policy.
Summary of the Law
The child abuse/neglect legislation 210.109 to 210.183, RSMo, contains several statutes that deal with various aspects of reporting. The main points of the statutes are summarized as follows:
- It is required that when any person acting in an official capacity as a staff member of a medical institution, school facility or other agency suspects child abuse or neglect, those suspicions must be reported to the person in charge of the institution. It is then this person who becomes responsible for making or insuring that such report is made appropriately;
- The law does specifically exclude from suspected child abuse or neglect the situation where a child does not receive specified medical treatment by reason of the legitimate practice of the religious beliefs of the child's parents, guardian, or others legally responsible for the child. However, this does not preclude a court hearing on whether medical services should be provided to a child whose health requires it. It is incumbent upon the health care provider to petition the court in situations where the life or well being of a child is in danger to allow the court opportunity to act on behalf of the child;
- Whenever a staff member of a medical institution suspects child abuse or neglect, the physician in charge shall be notified immediately. Color photographs of physical trauma shall be taken and if indicated, x-rays. Reproductions of the photographs and/or x-rays shall be sent to the Children’s Division (formally known as Division of Family Services) as soon as possible. No consent is required for these actions taken pursuant to the statutes;
- If a physician, police officer, or other law enforcement official believes that a child is suffering from illness or injury, or is in danger of personal harm by reason of his surroundings, and that a case of child abuse or neglect exists, a request may be initiated that a juvenile officer take the child into protective custody. If it is perceived that the child is in imminent danger or suffering serious physical harm or a threat to his life, the physician, police officer of other law enforcement official may take or retain temporary protective custody of the child without the consent of the child’s parents, guardian or others legally responsible for the child’s care. Upon taking custody, the juvenile officer of the court shall be notified immediately and the Children’s Division (formally known as Division of Family Services) must be notified. Reasonable attempts must be made to advise the parents, guardians, or others legally responsible for the child’s care. The law provides what actions must be taken by the juvenile court for the protection of the child;
- If there is evidence of sexual abuse or sexual molestation of any child, the Children’s Division (formally known as Division of Family Services) must be notified within 24 hours;
- Immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, is afforded to any person, official or institution in making of a report, the taking of photographs, the examination of a child by a physician, dentist or nurse practitioner, the making of x-rays, the removal or retaining of a child or in cooperation with the Children’s Division (formally known as Division of Family Services), law enforcement agency, or the juvenile office in their activities. However, this immunity does not extend for intentionally filing a false report, acting in bad faith, or with ill intent or acting negligently with regard to the examination of a child;
- The provider-patient confidentiality privilege does not apply to situations involving known or suspected child abuse or neglect. It does not constitute grounds for failure to report as required or permitted, or to otherwise fail to cooperate with the Children’s Division (formally known as Division of Family Services) and any of its activities pursuant to this legislation. No consent is required to release information to the Children’s Division when investigating suspected abuse; and
- Any person violating any provision of these sections is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment not to exceed one year.
Sheryl Feutz-Harter. (1993). Missouri Statutes Affecting Nursing Practice. Professional Education Systems, Inc.
Colleagues for Children (2000), Child Abuse and Neglect, Volume 3, No. 2
Department of Social Services, Children’s Division Staff (2004)
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