Minnesota law gives Hennepin County the authority and responsibility to investigate reports of abuse or neglect to a child when the suspected abuser is a person in the child’s family or household, a licensed day care, or the child’s foster home. Other State of Minnesota departments are responsible for investigating other types of suspected maltreatment, e.g., schools, hospitals.
Where to report suspected child abuse or neglect outside of the child's home (PDF)
Anyone may make a report if they know or suspect that a child who lives in Hennepin County is being abused or neglected, or has been abused or neglected in the past three years.
Unless mandated by law (see Mandated Reporters below), reports are voluntary and may be made anonymously. If the reporter is acting in good faith, he or she is immune from civil and criminal liability.
What to expect
When you call to report suspected abuse or neglect, you will speak to one of our child protection screeners who will record your information about the suspected maltreatment. The screener likely will ask you additional questions.
Be prepared to provide
- Information to identify the family, including the names and addresses of the child and parents
- Specific information about the abuse and neglect to the child, including what the allegation is, who the perpetrator is, when the abuse or neglect occurred
Other helpful information
- Where the child attends school
- Who else might have information about the child’s situation
- Where the child is at the time of the report, if different from home address
- Identity of other family and household members.
After the Report
Intake workers screen reports of suspected child maltreatment to determine if what is being described meets the law's definition of child maltreatment. If so, this triggers Hennepin County to inquire further and to take possible further steps to protect the child. If not, no further action is taken. Reports are kept on file for four years.
If the reported information meets the criteria for involvement by child protection, that leads to assessments of both the child’s current safety and the potential future risk. These assessment results determine what kind of response will follow, either a traditional investigation or a family assessment.
Investigation versus family assessment
Where there is a substantial safety risk to the child, the child protection worker conducts an investigation which is the traditional child protection response. The investigation determines answers to two important, but different, questions:
- Did illegal maltreatment occur?
- Does the family need child protection services for the child to safely remain in or return to the home?
If the initial assessment determines there is not a substantial risk of harm to the child, the family may chose to have a family assessment response. A family assessment does not address whether the alleged abuse or neglect occurred. Rather, family assessment focuses on the safety of the child, risk of future maltreatment, and the family’s strengths and needs. Determining the need for services and which services will best protect the child are at the heart of family assessment.
Participation in Family Assessment is voluntary; however, in situations where there is concern for the child’s future safety, a refusal to participate will result in a transfer of the case to a full-fledged investigation. As with an investigation, there is continuing assessment of the child’s safety and the risk of future maltreatment. Cases may be transferred from Family Assessment to Investigation.
The purpose of child protection is to prevent any future maltreatment (abuse or neglect). If a child is not safe in his or her home, it may be necessary to place the child outside of the home.