To report a reasonable suspicion that a child has been or is being abused or neglected phone the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) on 13 14 78.

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

Call 000 in an emergency.

Child abuse can happen to any child in any family - it may be physical, sexual, emotional, or involve neglect.

Details to provide

To enable an accurate assessment in relation to safety and risk, and determine the most appropriate response, you need to be able to provide as much information as you can about:

  • child's name, age, date of birth, address, school
  • parent or caregiver's name, age, address, phone number
  • cultural background and considerations, including clan group for an Aboriginal child if known
  • relevant parent, caregiver or family information
  • detailed description of injury, abuse or neglect (current and previous), including timeframes, impact on the child and context of the alleged incident or reported concerns
  • the child's current situation
  • the current location of the child, parent or caregiver
  • the alleged perpetrator's name, age, address, phone number, relationship to the child and current whereabouts
  • what supports and networks does the family have in terms of family, friends and community
  • what agencies and professionals are currently involved or have been involved in the past
  • when and how did you find out about the abuse or neglect
  • your name, contact details and relationship with the child and family.

Social workers on the Child Abuse Report Line will ask more detailed questions during the call.

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

The following activities should not be reported to the Child Abuse Report Line:

  • criminal behaviour of parents or caregivers where children are not aware, affected or involved. Contact SA Police on 13 14 44 regarding criminal activities
  • recreational drug or alcohol use by parents or caregivers where children are not aware, affected or involved. Contact SA Police on 13 14 44 regarding illegal use
  • sibling rivalry or violence
  • occasional or non-suspicious injuries that are not matched with a change in the child's behaviour - eg bruising, cuts, scrapes, broken bones that could have been caused during play, sports or accidents
  • truancy or continued absence from school unless paired with signs of neglect - truancy is monitored by the Department for Education.

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 twenty-four 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.

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.

Removing children from their home

The Department for Child Protection recognise the desirability of keeping children within their own family and put high priority to supporting and assisting families to carry out their parental responsibilities. However, where a child is in danger or there is a high risk of harm or injury that prevent the child from being safely maintained at home, the Department for Child Protection may need to make alternative care arrangements for the child. This may include:

  • a relative
  • a trusted friend
  • a foster carer.

For more information about the kinds of arrangements that can be put in place for a child, see how children come into care.

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.

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.

Related information

Other websites

Was this page useful?

Page last updated 5 May 2017

Provided by:
Department for Child Protection
Last Updated:
Printed on:
Copyright statement:
SA.GOV.AU is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence. © Copyright 2021