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Department of Human Services

Family, Youth and Children Division

When to Report


Trauma experienced in childhood can be repaired when children's lives change for the better through outside help. 

Reports to the Child Protection Hotline by caring community members and mandated reporters help children and their families have safer and healthier futures. 

If you are concerned about a child's safety, call the Child Protection Hotline (707) 565-4304 or (800) 870-7064 or request a home welfare and safety check by local law enforcement. Many callers feel relief after they call to request support for a child they know.

What are Abuse and Neglect?


The most common concern for child safety. The child has suffered or is at risk of serious physical harm or illness as a result of the failure or inability of a parent or guardian to:

  • adequately supervise or protect the child
  • adequately supervise or protect the child from the conduct of a paid or unpaid caregiver
  • provide the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical treatment

Physical Abuse

The child has suffered, or there is a substantial risk that the child will suffer, serious physical harm inflicted non-accidentally upon the child by the child's parent or guardian.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is when a child has been a victim of sexual assault or exploitation.

  • Examples of assault include: sex acts with children, child molestation and intentional masturbation in presence of child.
  • Examples of sexual exploitation include: preparing, selling or distributing pornographic materials involving children, performances involving obscene sexual conduct and child trafficking.

Emotional Abuse

The child is suffering serious emotional damage or is at risk of suffering serious emotional damage due to the conduct of the parent or guardian.  

Parental Abandonment

Parents may desert a child without supervision, support or communication, or give up their parental rights because the no longer intend to care for the child.

When to Offer Support

Stress happens to all of us— including parents. Parents who love their children may still need help. By offering neighborly support or suggesting parents contact helpful local resources, you help.

What Not to Report:

  • Chronic Lice: Connect the parent with a doctor or clinic that can prescribe medication.
  • Missing School: Reach out to the school district about offering special services that can help get the child back in school
  • Spanking: It is legal to lightly spank children so long as it is age-appropriate and leaves no marks. However, parents can learn other ways to cope with a child’s behavior. Suggest contacting First Five Sonoma County or the Child Parent Institute.
  • Smell of Marijuana: If a parent uses marijuana, ask yourself: Can s/he safely supervise and care for the child? If the answer is no, Report. If yes, you might share Sonoma County Department of Health fact sheet about marijuana’s impact on smokers and children.
  • Frequent Injuries: Scrapes, bumps and bruises are part of childhood, but frequent injuries may signal a problem. Suggest a visit to a pediatrician. Who knows? The child may need glasses or have another health issue.