Katherine Young, MSW, Director, Social Services
Donna Wheeler, LCSW, Deputy Director
Jeri Scardina, MSW, Deputy Director
Shelley Nilsen, MSW, Deputy Director

Reporting Child Abuse

If you suspect child abuse, please read the following information.

Reports of child abuse in Humboldt County can be made to:

Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services, Social Services Branch
929 Koster Street
Eureka, CA 95501
(707) 445-6180

What is child abuse?
How does child abuse get reported?
How do I know when to report child abuse?


What is child abuse?

Under California law, child abuse is a crime.

Children need protection because they are vulnerable and often are unable to speak for themselves. The California Child Abuse Reporting Law, along with other state laws, provides the legal basis for action to protect children and to allow intervention by public agencies if a child is maltreated.

California law defines child abuse as any of the following:
  • A child physically injured by other than accidental means
  • A child subjected to willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment
  • A child is abused or exploited sexually
  • A child is neglected by a parent or caretaker who fails to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision.

Any child may be victimized. Child abuse crosses all socioeconomic, ethnic, cultural, occupational, religious and age groups. It can occur in the child’s home, and or outside the family. Tragically, it happens most often at home, and usually the abuser is known to the child. Generally, the abuser is a caretaker. A caretaker can be a parent, stepparent or a child care provider.


How does child abuse get reported?

A report is made by telephoning the local child protective agency and talking with them about the child’s situation. A child protective agency is either the county social services department or the local law enforcement agency (police or sheriff). Social services departments provide child welfare services in California. Except for situations involving allegations of general neglect, child protective agencies are required to cross-report to each other. Cross-reporting means that the different agencies inform each other of reports so that each agency can take appropriate steps to respond. “General neglect” means the negligent failure of a person to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care or supervision for a child under that person’s care or supervision for a child under that person’s care or custody. General neglect is handled only by the social services department.


How do I know when to report child abuse?

Reporting should be done when a person either knows or suspects that a child has been or is in danger of abuse or neglect. Hard proof is not needed to make a report. However, reports must be made in good faith. Use common sense. A report of child abuse is serious and may have a lifelong impact on the child and his or her family. Never make a false or malicious report. If you are in doubt at all about whether to report a particular situation, telephone the Humboldt County Social Services Branch, Child Welfare Services Division, and discuss the situation.


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