How do I report a concern about a child?
When should I report a concern about a child to Tusla?
You should always inform Tusla when you have reasonable grounds for concern that a child may have been, is being, or is at risk of being abused or neglected. If you ignore what may be symptoms of abuse, it could result in ongoing harm to the child. It is not necessary for you to prove that abuse has occurred to report a concern to Tusla. All that is required is that you have reasonable grounds for concern. It is Tusla’s role to assess concerns that are reported to it. If you report a concern, you can be assured that your information will be carefully considered with any other information available and a child protection assessment will be carried out where sufficient risk is identified.
Reasonable grounds for a child protection or welfare concern include:
- Evidence, for example an injury or behaviour, that is consistent with abuse and is unlikely to have been caused in any other way
- Any concern about possible sexual abuse
- Consistent signs that a child is suffering from emotional or physical neglect
- A child saying or indicating by other means that he or she has been abused
- Admission or indication by an adult or a child of an alleged abuse they committed
- An account from a person who saw the child being abused
Who do I contact to make a report?
You can report your concern in person, by telephone or in writing to the local social work duty service in the area where the child lives. Contact details for local social work teams are available here.
Tusla has two forms for reporting child protection and welfare concerns – the Child Protection and Welfare Report Form (CPWRF) and the Retrospective Abuse Report Form (RARF). The Child Protection and Welfare Report Form is to be completed and submitted to Tusla for concerns about children under the age of 18. A web portal has been developed to allow for the secure submission of CPWRFs to Tusla. The Retrospective Abuse Report Form is to be completed and submitted to Tusla for cases of adults disclosing childhood abuse. It is not currently possible to submit RARFs using the web portal. Both the CPWRF and RARF can be downloaded here. If using a hardcopy CPWRF or RARF, the completed form should be sent to the Duty Social Work team in the area where the child resides.
What information do I need to include in the report?
To help Tusla staff assess your reasonable concern, they need as much information as possible. You should provide as much relevant information as you can about the child, his/her home circumstances and the grounds for concern.
You should give as much information as possible to social workers at an early stage so that they can do a full check of their records. For instance, they can see if the child and/or a sibling have been the subject of a previous referral, or if an adult in the household had previous contact with the child protection services. It also helps social workers to prioritise cases for attention, as they are not in a position to respond immediately to all cases. However, they will always respond where a child is in immediate danger or at high risk of harm. It will also help Tusla to decide if another service would be more appropriate to help meet the needs of the child, i.e. a community or family support service rather than a social work service.
Tusla’s Child Protection and Welfare Report Form can be found here.
For additional information on making a report to Tusla please see A Guide for the Reporting of Child Protection and Welfare Concerns.
What if I am unsure if I should report?
If you are concerned about a child but unsure whether you should report it to Tusla, you may find it useful to contact Tusla to discuss your concern.
This provides an opportunity to discuss the query in general and to decide whether a formal report of the concern to Tusla is appropriate at this stage. If the concern is below the threshold for reporting, Tusla may be able to provide advice in terms of keeping an eye on the child and other services that may be more suitable to meeting the needs of the child and/or family.
Do I need to tell the family I am making a report?
It is best practice to tell a family you are making a report. Families have a right to know what is being reported about them. It also helps them understand the reasons for reporting and what information is being reported. However, in exceptional circumstances you may be concerned that telling the family will put the child at further risk, could impact on Tusla’s ability to carry out an assessment or could place you at risk of harm from the family. In these exceptional circumstances it is not necessary for you to tell the family you are making a report.
Can I report anonymously?
While it is possible to report a concern without giving your name, it may make it difficult for Tusla to assess your concern. All information that you provide will be dealt with in a professional manner. While Tusla cannot guarantee confidentiality, in general we do not reveal the names of members of the public who report suspected child abuse without their permission. However, Tusla must respect the rights to fair procedure of people against whom allegations have been made and sometimes information about an allegation will be shared with a person against whom the allegation has been made.
Remember, if you are a mandated person, you cannot submit a report of a mandated concern anonymously, as to do so will mean you are not complying with your obligations under the Act.
Can I be sued for making a report?
The Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998 protects you if you make a report of suspected child abuse to designated officers of Tusla, the Health Service Executive (HSE) or to members of the Gardaí as long as the report is made in good faith and is not malicious. Designated officers also include persons authorised by the Chief Executive Officer of Tusla to receive and acknowledge reports of mandated concerns about a child from mandated persons under the Children First Act 2015.
This legal protection means that even if you report a case of suspected child abuse and it proves unfounded, a plaintiff who took an action would have to prove that you had not acted reasonably and in good faith in making the report. If you make a report in good faith and in the child’s best interests, you may also be protected under common law by the defence of qualified privilege.
You can find the full list of persons in Tusla and the HSE who are designated Officers here
What happens after a report is received by Tusla?
Tusla has the statutory responsibility to assess all reports of child welfare and protection concerns. Assessments are carried out by Tusla social workers. If concerns are found after the initial checks, further evaluation involving a detailed examination of the child and family’s circumstances will follow. If concerns about a child’s welfare are found, but do not involve a child protection issue, then the family may be referred to community or family support services. If no concerns are found, then the information gathered is recorded and kept on a confidential file where it will be examined if further concerns or more information comes to light.
If you make a report about a child, Tusla will normally acknowledge it, and may contact you for further information, if necessary. It is understandable that you would like to be assured that the matter is being followed up. However, to protect the privacy of the child and family, it may not be possible for Tusla to inform you of the progress or outcome of Tusla’s contact with the child or family, unless you are involved in discussions around family support or child protection plans. If you continue to have concerns about the child, or if additional information comes to light, you should contact Tusla.
Dealing with a retrospective allegation
Some adults may disclose abuse that took place during their childhood. Such disclosures may come to light when an adult attends counselling, or is being treated for a psychiatric or health problem. If you are, for example, a counsellor or health professional, and you receive a disclosure from a client that they were abused as a child, you should report this information to Tusla, as the alleged abuser may pose a current risk to children. (Link to RARF)
Concerns about an adult who may pose a risk to children
While in most cases concerns for the welfare or safety of a child develop from your own observation or knowledge of the child or their family, sometimes concerns arise about whether an adult may pose a risk to children, even if there is no specific child named in relation to the concern. For example, based on known or suspected past behaviour, a concern could exist about the risk an individual may pose to children with whom they may have contact. You should report any such reasonable concerns to Tusla, who will try to establish whether or not any child is currently at risk from the individual in question.
While Tusla will make every effort to examine such cases, it is a very complex area involving the accused’s constitutional rights to their good name, privacy and the right to earn a living, as well as the requirements of natural justice. Tusla must work within the Constitution, the law, the legal system and the demands of natural justice to balance the conflicting rights of those involved. This may limit how much feedback Tusla can provide to you on the progress or outcome of the case. Tusla’s examination can be greatly improved if the alleged victim feels able to cooperate with Tusla in its assessment or investigation.
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