Mandatory Reporting Procedures

In Iowa, professionals who have frequent contact with children (generally those working in health, mental health, education, child care, law enforcement or social work fields) are designated mandatory reporters and must report suspected child abuse.

If you are a mandatory reporter of child abuse and you suspect a child has been abused, you must report it to the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) within 24 hours of becoming aware of the situation. You are also required to make a report to law enforcement if you have reason to believe that a child is in immediate danger. The reporter’s role is to report suspected abuse, not validate the abuse. You do not have to have proof that abuse has occurred before reporting.

To report a suspected case of child abuse:

  • Call 1-800-362-2178.
  • Then, follow up by making a written report within 24 hours.

Oral and written reports should contain the following information, if it is known:

  • The names and home address of the child and the child’s parents or other persons believed to be responsible for the child’s care.
  • The child’s present whereabouts.
  • The child’s age.
  • The nature and extent of the child’s injuries, including any evidence of previous injuries.
  • The name, age, and condition of other children in the same household.
  • Any other information that you believe may be helpful in establishing the cause of the abuse or neglect to the child.
  • The identity of the person or persons responsible for the abuse or neglect to the child.
  • Your name and address.

If you are a mandatory reporter and suspect sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 by a non-caretaker, you are required by law to make a report of child abuse to DHS. If the child is aged 12 or older, you may report the sexual abuse by a non-caretaker but you are not required by law to do so. DHS must report all sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement within 72 hours.

Reporting Process

After a report has been made, DHS will decide whether to accept or reject the report within 1 to 12 hours depending on the information provided and the level of risk to the child.

If the intake information alleges sexual abuse of a child by a person who is not a “caretaker,” DHS refers the report to law enforcement verbally and also submits the referral information in writing within 72 hours of receiving the report.

Cases of child prostitution, homicide, sexual abuse, and severe trauma require a joint assessment by law enforcement personnel and DHS.

Determination if Abuse Occurred

After gathering necessary information from observations, interviews and documentation, and after assessing the credibility of subjects of the report, collateral contacts and information, DHS must determine whether or not abuse occurred. Each category or subcategory of child abuse requires that specific criteria be met in order to conclude that abuse occurred. This determination is based on a “preponderance” of credible evidence, defined as greater than 50% of the credible evidence gathered. The child protective worker must make one of the following conclusions regarding a report of child abuse:

  • Not confirmed: Based on the credible evidence gathered, DHS determines that there is not a preponderance of available credible evidence that abuse did occur.
  • Confirmed (but not placed on the Child Abuse Registry): Based on a preponderance of all of the credible evidence available to DHS, the allegation of abuse is confirmed; however, the abuse will not be placed on the Child Abuse Registry.
  • Founded: Based on a preponderance of credible evidence available to DHS, the allegation of abuse is confirmed and it is the type of abuse that requires placement on the Child Abuse Registry.

Excerpts from CHILD ABUSE: A Guide for Mandatory Reporters.

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