State launches online tool for reporting child abuse

By Lindsey Erdody Published:

The Kentucky Department for Community Based Services has found a way to make reporting child abuse faster and easier.

DCBS, part of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, opened an online reporting portal to the public last week in hopes of decreasing the volume of phone calls it was receiving.

Kentucky joins four other states with an online system designed for reporting child abuse and neglect.

“We needed to find an alternative option so we could meet the callers demands,” DCBS Commissioner Teresa James said.

James said she didn’t have exact data for the number of calls its staff was receiving, but many complained about waiting on hold or not getting through to someone.

She said the online system is a more efficient means for people to report, especially for mandatory reporters, such as medical providers, who are usually on a tight schedule.

Kentucky law requires most people in the medical field, like doctors and nurses, and teachers, child care personnel, social workers and peace officers to report any suspected child abuse or neglect.

In state fiscal year 2012, there were 34,706 reports of child abuse or neglect that met the need for an investigation, according to the annual report from DCBS.

In July, James said the website was opened to some of the mandatory reporters and there was feedback.

“We did make some adjustments during that time,” James said. “We just wanted to make sure it was up and working before we sent it out to the general public.”

She said so far feedback has been positive and complaints about the phone intake system have decreased.

While the website was open to the select group, more than 700 reporters were sent through it.

Other states with an online reporting system include Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Tennessee.

It took about six months to design and implement the Kentucky version and that included gathering information from the Texas and Mississippi sites, James said.

Reporting with the online form differs from calling in. With the online portal, reporters can’t be anonymous. They must include an email address with the form.

By providing an email address, reporters will get an email immediately saying DCBS received the report. After that, if the information provided does not result in an investigation, the reporter will get another email explaining that no action is being taken.

Currently with the phone intake system, callers are unaware of what happens after they report something.

There are also some other required fields so intake staff can make a decision about whether or not an investigation is necessary. If people can’t fill out those fields, they can call the hotline—877-KY SAFE1.

The website can be accessed from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and an intake individual reviews it. James said the staff is trying to make the website available 24-hours, but hasn’t reached that point yet.

She said she expects this to increase the overall number of reports since it makes it easier and more convenient for people.

“The society we live in is a very timely society,” James said. “We’re really excited about it.”

> To report child abuse or neglect online, visit The website is available from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. To make a report not during those hours, call 911, local law enforcement or 877-KY SAFE1.

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