Child Abuse Reporting Requirements

Report Child Abuse – It's the Law

Texas law requires that any person suspecting that a child has been abused or neglected must immediately make a report. If there is an emergency, call 911 and then call the DFPS Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400. You can also make a report online (External Link).

Professionals must make a report no later than the 48th hour after first suspecting a child has been abused or neglected or is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code. A professional may not delegate to or rely on another person to make the report (Texas Family Code, Section 261.101). Professionals are not required to follow up their oral reports with a written report as they were in the past. Professionals include teachers, nurses, doctors, day-care employees, and others who are either licensed by the state or work in a facility licensed or operated by the state and who have direct contact with children in the course of their job (Texas Family Code, Section 261.101).

It is important to make the report as soon as possible. The more time that passes between the incident and your report, the more difficult it is for CPS to conduct an appropriate and thorough investigation and gather the information needed to protect the child. Over time, bruises can heal; physical evidence may disappear or be obscured; memories may fade; and children, parents, and other individuals may change their minds about what to say to CPS.

In some situations, you may be aware of a family’s ongoing problems over a period of time before you begin to suspect that the situation has worsened into abuse or neglect. DFPS encourages you to report if you think that a child has been abused or neglected. You are not expected to prove that abuse or neglect has definitely occurred. Delaying your report to check the situation or to gather more information can result in more serious harm to the child.

Report Abuse to DFPS

Call our Abuse Hotline toll-free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, nationwide, or report with our secure website and get a response within 24 hours.

Recognize the Signs of Child Abuse

There are four major types of child maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.

Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse is physical injury that results in substantial harm to the child, or the genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child. The physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) can result from punching, beating, shaking, kicking, biting, throwing, stabbing, hitting, burning, choking, or otherwise harming a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caretaker intended to hurt the child.

Suspect Physical Abuse When You See:

  • Frequent injuries such as bruises, cuts, black eyes, or burns without adequate explanations
  • Frequent complaints of pain without obvious injury
  • Burns or bruises in unusual patterns that may indicate the use of an instrument or human bite; cigarette burns on any part of the body
  • Lack of reaction to pain
  • Extreme fear of going home or seeing parents
  • Injuries that appear after a child has not been seen for several days
  • Unreasonable clothing that may hide injuries to arms or legs


Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs necessary to sustain the life or health of the child, excluding failure caused primarily by financial inability unless relief services have been offered and refused.

Suspect Neglect When You See:

  • Obvious malnourishment
  • Consistent concern for lack of personal hygiene that poses a health risk
  • Stealing or begging for food
  • Child unattended for long periods
  • Unaddressed need for dental care or other medical attention

Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse includes fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or producing pornographic materials.

Suspect Sexual Abuse When You See:

  • Physical signs of sexually transmitted diseases
  • Evidence of injury to the genital area
  • Pregnancy in a young girl
  • Difficulty in sitting or walking
  • Extreme fear of being alone with adults of a certain sex
  • Sexual comments, behaviors, or play beyond what is considered age-appropriate behavior
  • Knowledge of sexual relations beyond what is expected for a child’s age
  • Sexual victimization of other children

Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse is mental or emotional injury that results in an observable and material impairment in a child’s growth, development, or psychological functioning. It includes extreme forms of punishment such as confining a child in a dark closet, habitual scapegoating, belittling, and rejecting treatment for a child.

Suspect Emotional Abuse When You See:

  • Over-compliance or low self-esteem caused by scapegoating or verbal abuse by caregivers
  • Severe depression, anxiety, or aggression
  • Lagging in physical, emotional, and intellectual development
  • Caregiver who belittles the child, withholds love, and seems unconcerned about the child’s problems
  • Significant changes to behavior, such as withdrawal or over-aggression
  • Significant changes to weight, such as substantial weight gain or weight loss.


Recognizing, Reporting, and Preventing Child Abuse

Training on Recognizing, Reporting, and Preventing Child Abuse is provided by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS).


Visit the HHS Provider Portal web page regarding child abuse reporting for Health and Human Services agencies. This information can also be found in the Title V MCH FFS policy manual under Section 3200: Abuse and Neglect Reporting.