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State has hotline to report suspected child abuse

A state hotline exists for anyone who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused. The number is (800) 342-3720.

Some professionals -- including school administrators, day care workers, social workers, physicians, nurses and most medical workers, and police officers -- are considered "mandated reporters" and are required to report suspected child abuse.

The names of persons contacting the hotline are kept confidential.

Mandated reporters face potential legal repercussions for intentionally failing to make a report, according to the state Office of Children and Family Services. Mandated reporters should call a separate hotline, (800) 635-1522.

In Erie County, the Department of Social Services' Child Protective Services Division investigates suspected child abuse and has the legal authority to remove a child or children from a household to ensure their safety and prevent any further abuse.

Abuse is defined as serious physical injury inflicted or allowed to be inflicted upon a child by other than accidental means; the creation of a substantial risk of such injury; or the commission of a sexual offense against the child.

CPS is required to launch an investigation within 24 hours of the report of the suspected abuse, including an evaluation of the safety of the child named in the report and any other children in the home.

The investigator must also determine if the children are at risk by remaining in the home. If such risk exists, CPS may take a child or children into "protective custody."

CPS then has 60 days to investigate further and determine whether a report is "indicated" or "unfounded."