Reporting Abuse FAQ & Training

  • Physical abuse: Non-accidental trauma or physical injury of a child, or failure to protect a child from harm.
  • Neglect: Failure to provide for a child's physical survival needs to the extent that there is harm, or risk of harm, to the child's health or safety.
  • Sexual abuse: When a child is involved in intentional sexual acts that produce sexual arousal and/or gratification for the perpetrator or sexual behaviors/situations in which there is a sexual component.
  • Psychological harm: A repeated pattern of caregiver behavior or extreme incident(s) that convey to children they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered. May include both abusive acts against a child and failure to act.

Everyone in Tennessee is a mandated reporter under state law. Any person with reasonable cause to believe a child is being abused or neglected must, under the law, immediately report to the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services or to local law enforcement. The reporter can remain anonymous.

Failure to report abuse is a violation of the law and a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a sentence of up to three months imprisonment, a fine or both. Those who report and “act in good faith” are immune from any civil or criminal charges which may result. The reporter has the right to remain confidential and anonymous.

  • Child(ren) names, ages, address, phone numbers, race, and school/daycare information
  • Parent(s), Legal Guardian(s), or caretaker(s) information
  • Other household members information
  •  Nature of the harm or specific incident(s) that precipitated the report
  • Specific allegation(s), date(s) and descriptions(s) of the injuries or dangers
  • Identities of alleged perpetrator(s) and their relationship(s) to the victim
  • Witnesses to the incident(s) and how to reach those witnesses
  • Details of any physical evidence available
  • Perpetrator's current access to the child
  • Present condition of the child (alone, in need of medical attention, etc.)
  • The location of the child and directions to that location
  • Any statements from the child
  • Parent's or perpetrator's explanation of the alleged child victim's condition or the incident
  • Parent's current emotional, physical or mental state, especially feelings about the child and reactions to the report
  • How the reporter came to know the information and the reporter's thoughts about the likelihood of further harm to the child
  • The child has repeated injuries that are not properly treated or adequately explained.
  • The child begins acting in unusual ways ranging from disruptive and aggressive to passive and withdrawn.
  • The child acts as a parent toward his or her brothers and sisters or even toward their own parents.
  • The child may have disturbed sleep (nightmares, bed wetting, fear of sleeping alone, and needing nightlight).
  • The child loses his/her appetite, overeats or may report being hungry.
  • There is a sudden drop in school grades or participation in activities.
  • The child may act in ways that are developmentally inappropriate, such as sexual behavior that is not normal for his/her age group.
  • The child may report abusive or neglectful acts.
  • Note: The above signs can indicate something is wrong but do not necessarily indicate abuse or neglect.

Warning Signs of Abuse Flyer in English & Spanish 

Warning Signs of Child Abuse flyer in English.

Señales de Alerta del Maltrato infantil (Warning Signs of Child Abuse flyer in Spanish)


Mandated Reporter Training

A free online training offers the public information on how to report child abuse and neglect in Tennessee. It explains how the process works, plus policies, laws and what reporters can expect.

The training is used by many public entities such as schools, child care centers and organizations that have some contact with children. Anyone who wants it, can access the training.

The training was developed in collaboration with the University of Tennessee College of Social Work, Office of Research and Public Service; the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services; the Joint Task Force on Children’s Justice/Child Sexual Abuse; and the Shelby County Citizen’s Review Panel.

Access the training

Request an in person training