To report a reasonable suspicion that a child has been or is being abused or neglected phone the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) on 131 478.

The report line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Details to provide

When making a report you need to be able to tell the child abuse report line as much information as you have about:

  • child’s name, age, date of birth, address
  • description of injury, abuse and/or neglect (current and previous)
  • the child’s current situation
  • the location of the child, parent or caregiver and alleged perpetrator
  • when and how did you find out about the abuse.

If the child is Aboriginal you should also provide the Clan group of the child, if known.

The report line staff will ask more detailed questions similar to below.

Child identification details and context

You will need to provide enough detail to identify the child or young person and give context to your report, including:

  • the child’s full name as well as their:
    • date of birth or age
    • current address
    • contact number
    • school/kindergarten/ child care centre
    • ethnicity (ie Aboriginal, kinship group, non-English speaking)
  • who are the parents, do they all live in the same house, are there siblings in the house?
  • alleged perpetrator’s name, age, address, relationships to the child or children, current whereabouts
  • current whereabouts of the child or children of concern
  • details of when the next expected contact with the alleged perpetrator will occur.

Your details

You will be asked to provide details about yourself including:

  • your full name, address, contact number
  • your relationship to the child or children of concern
  • type of contact you have with the family, frequency and last time you saw the child or children
  • if are you working with the child or the family, and If so, in what capacity.

Following up or adding to a report

If you need to add to a report you have made, call the Child Abuse Report Line again on 13 14 78.

What not to report as child abuse or neglect

While criminal activity is important to report to police, it may not be a reportable child abuse matter.

The following are examples of scenarios where contacting the child abuse report line is not necessary.

Criminal behaviour

The parents use drugs or alcohol recreationally

If there is no known impact on the children, they engage in the activities when the children are not present or it does not affect their capacity to parent, it should not be reported to the child abuse report line.

The parents engage in criminal activity

Where children are not involved, aware or affected, these are not child protection matters. Criminal activities including theft, prostitution or drug cultivation or production are issues call  SA Police on 131 444.

Family issues

Siblings are fighting

This has no obvious child protection component. While the matter may be of concern, it is not an issue to report to the child abuse report line.

The child has a bruise

If the child’s behaviour has not noticeably changed, or there has been no disclosure of how this occurred, there is not enough evidence to suggest a child protection concern.

See indicators of child abuse for more detail about when bruising becomes an issue.

No reasonable grounds

The investigatory process by the Department for Child Protection, SA Police or Child Protection Services can be extremely intrusive on families and children.

Only contact the child abuse report line when reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect exists.

What happens next

On receiving a child abuse report, the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) social worker is responsible for:

  • deciding whether there are legal grounds for Department for Child Protection intervention
  • whether Department for Child Protection intervention is required
  • the type of response that is warranted.


When a child is suspected to be at risk

If a report raises a suspicion on reasonable grounds that a child is at risk of abuse or neglect and the matters causing the child to be at risk are not being adequately addressed, the Department for Child Protection can initiate an assessment or investigation into the child's circumstances or an alternative response that more appropriately addresses the risk to the child.

The level of risk and related response

The type of response required reflects the nature of the reported concerns, the level of safety provided to the child, the level of risk and other related factors associated with the child's circumstances.

When there is serious abuse or neglect

When suspected cases of serious child abuse or neglect are reported to the Department for Child Protection, social workers may visit the family to undertake an investigation into the child's circumstances. In certain cases, the investigation will also involve police. The investigatory process by the Department for Child Protection and police can be extremely intrusive for families and children.

In situations where the child is in need of immediate protection from current and serious harm, the Department for Child Protection will respond within 24 hours.

Alternative response

A non-investigative approach is undertaken where an alternative response to an assessment or investigation would more appropriately address the risk to the child. This can incorporate a request to families to discuss the reported information and provide assistance with connecting families with services and supports. An alternative response may also involve discussions with services already involved with the family to strengthen supports and enhance parenting capacity.

If a child is not at risk

If there is no evidence of abuse or neglect to the child and they are assessed as being in a safe environment, the case will be closed.

How reports of child abuse are investigated

Investigations of child abuse reports where a home visit is made usually involves two social workers attending the home. During the home visit the social workers will discuss the reported concerns with the parent or caregiver and talk to the child. Sometimes, the social workers will need to speak with the children before visiting the home. The Department for Child Protection can legally do this without parental permission if necessary.

The social workers may want to talk to household members separately or together. Sometimes social workers will need to speak with teachers, doctors, child care workers, extended family members and other people who are connected to the child or responsible for their welfare.

The social workers will gather information and make observations in order to assess whether the child is safe and their needs are being met. Any decisions and actions are undertaken in the child's best interests.

The social workers will not be able to disclose the name of the person who made the report to the family as the Children's Protection Act 1993 protects the notifier's identity.

Official records

Official records are maintained in relation to Department for Child Protection involvement with the child and their family. All contact is recorded on the Client Management System. Families are able to access records of their information through Freedom of Information, and can speak to Department for Child Protection staff about how to do this.

Related information

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    Page last updated 19 October 2021

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