Frequently Asked Questions

What Constitutes Abuse and Neglect?

What is child abuse? 

"Child abuse" is defined in Maryland law as:

  1. Physical or mental injury of a child under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed; "mental injury" is defined as the observable, identifiable, and substantial impairment of a child’s mental or psychological ability to function.

  2. Sexual abuse of a child, whether physical injuries are sustained or not.
    "Sexual abuse" is defined as any act that involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child. It includes a wide array of sexual conduct, including such things as exposure, sexual advances, and engaging in the pornographic display of a child.

What is child neglect? 

"Child neglect" is defined in Maryland law as the failure to give proper care and attention to a child, including leaving the child unattended, under circumstances indicating:

  1. That the child’s health or welfare is harmed or placed at substantial risk of harm; or
  2. Mental injury to the child or a substantial risk of mental injury.

What are some of the indicators of child abuse and neglect? 

Physical IndicatorsSexual Abuse IndicatorsNeglect Indicators
  • Physically injurious behavior beyond physical discipline. Unexplained bruises or a pattern of bruises
  • Cuts and burns (cigarette, liquid) to the body
  • Rope marks or burns
  • Fractures/broken bones
  • Welts, abrasions
  • Bite marks or puncture wounds
  • Chipped teeth
  • Difficulty or painful walking
  • Injury or reported pain or itching in genital area
  • Expressions of sexual knowledge or behavior inappropriate for age
  • Verbalization of sexual involvement or victimization of other children
  • Sexually suggestive behavior
  • Pregnancy under 12 years of age
  • Extreme and unusual changes in personality, behavior and/or emotions (e.g., acting out, fear of being in the company of someone whom the child initially trusted)
  • Dirty, unkempt
  • Untreated serious medical problems
  • Obvious malnourishment
  • Listlessness, fatigue
  • Child left unattended or without supervision
  • Inadequate clothing for weather

Who is considered to be a “child” under Maryland child abuse and neglect laws? 

For the purposes of Maryland’s child abuse and neglect laws, a "child" is defined as any individual under the age of 18 years.

Are all suspected perpetrators subject to the Maryland child abuse and neglect laws? 

No. Maryland law only applies if the abuse or neglect was committed by:

  • A parent;
  • A person who has permanent or temporary care or custody of the child, or responsibility for supervision of the child; or
  • A household or family member (in the case of abuse).

How do I determine if physical discipline is considered child abuse? 

This is a complicated question. In some families and cultures, physical discipline (spanking, hitting, or whipping) is a common practice in managing the behavior of children. Generally, physical discipline should be reported as abuse if it leaves an injury and harmed the child or put the child’s health and welfare at substantial risk of harm. Child Protective Services (CPS) will then determine whether the punishment was abusive considering the totality of the circumstances, including the severity of the injury, the nature of the punishment, the gravity of the act being punished, and the adult’s attempt to use other nonphysical means of discipline.

How do I distinguish between child sexual abuse and the crime of sexual assault? 

Much of what is reported to Child Protective Services as child sexual abuse also constitutes a crime such as criminal child sexual abuse, sexual assault, incest, or rape. However, it does not always work the other way around; not every sexual assault perpetrated on a child is reportable to Child Protective Services as child sexual abuse. Unless a sexual act was perpetrated by a parent, household, or family member, or other person caring for or supervising a child, it is not considered to be reportable “child sexual abuse,” even if it is unwelcome or nonconsensual touching that would constitute a sexual assault.

Of course, if you should witness the sexual assault of the child — regardless of whether it fits the definition of child sexual abuse — you are encouraged to call 911 to report it.

What if someone was sexually abused at the age of 5 by another sibling who was 9 at the time? 

Under Maryland’s child abuse reporting laws, the sexual abuse must be reported if it involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child … by any household or family member.” Given that the two children are “household members,” you are mandated to report. The CPS case worker can make a determination of whether it should be investigated.

USM Policy and UMB Procedures

Where can I find the USM Policy on Reporting Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect? 

The University System of Maryland (USM) Policy may be found at the link below. It is Board of Regents Policy VI-1.50.

Are there UMB procedures that provide details regarding these obligations? 

The University has adopted Procedures for Reporting Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (VI-1.50(A)). The UMB Procedures are intended to implement the USM Policy and are posted at

What is the source of the requirement to report child abuse and neglect? 

The purpose of the USM Policy is to set out the mandatory reporting requirements that are established by state law as they apply to the USM. The source of those legal requirements is a set of statutes in the Family Law Article of the Maryland Annotated Code, Sections 5-701 through 5-708. The USM Policy also applies requirements established in various opinions of the attorney general that authoritatively interpret the Family Law Article statutes, and it includes USM-specific requirements for reporting to designated University officials when an incident involves members of the campus community or University-sponsored activities.

Basic Reporting Requirements

Who is required to report child abuse and neglect? 

Under Maryland law, all adults have an obligation to make report(s) if they have reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect. However, the reporting requirements are somewhat different, depending upon whether or not the reporter is a USM health practitioner, educator, human service worker, police officer, or “professional employee.”

What are the reporting obligations of health practitioners, educators, human service workers, police officers, and “professional employees?” 

Each USM health practitioner, educator, human service worker, police officer, or professional employee, when acting in a professional capacity, who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect, is required to make oral and written reports as follows:

If abuse is suspected, a copy of the written report also must  be sent to the local State’s Attorney.

Who is considered to be a “professional employee"? 

According to the USM Policy, a professional employee is any person employed by the USM as a faculty member; administrator; coach; or other employee who provides academic support, student service, or institutional support activities, if the employee’s duties require a college degree or comparable experience.

Who is considered to be a “health practitioner”? 

Under the Maryland child abuse and neglect reporting law, health practitioners include anyone who is authorized by Maryland law to practice healing (including physicians, dentists, nurses, therapists, emergency medical responders, psychologists, etc.).

Who is considered to be an “educator or human service worker”? 

Under the Maryland child abuse and neglect reporting law, educators and human service workers include any teacher, counselor, social worker, or caseworker. UMB personnel who are working off campus as a staff member of a school or other educational facility need to report as required under the law but need not also report to UMB. See "Where do I report if I am working off campus?" below.

I am not a health practitioner, educator, human service worker, police officer, or professional employee. What are my reporting obligations? 

  1. All members of the campus community who are not described in those categories (i.e., other staff, students, and contractors on campus) also are required to report when they have reason to believe that child abuse or neglect has occurred. The report may be made orally or in writing. The report must be made to CPS or the police.
  2. Also, an oral or written report must be made to the University’s CAO if the suspected child abuse or neglect occurred on campus, was committed by a current or former employee or volunteer of the USM, occurred in connection with a UMB-sponsored or recognized activity, or took place while the victim was a registered UMB student.
  3. Oral reports are sufficient if made by these individuals. Following up with a written report is optional but not required. However, UMB encourages reporting in writing to the CAO.

Are students required to report? What about staff? What about contractors? 

The requirement to make an oral report to CPS or the police extends to students, staff, and contractors on campus. Additionally, the University encourages reporting to the CAO by every person who has a reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect.

By when do I have to report? 

  1. An oral report must be made as soon as immediately as is practicable.
  2. If a written report is required, it must be provided within 48 hours of the event that gave reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect.

What information do I report? 

Sufficient information to identify and contact the victim, and sufficient information to determine whether the incident constituted child abuse or neglect under the law, including:

  • Whether the victim was a child (i.e., under age 18) when the incident occurred.
  • Whether the alleged perpetrator was a parent, household or family member, or other person who had care, custody, or supervision of the child when the maltreatment occurred.
  • Whether the child was injured, harmed, or at substantial risk of harm as a result of the alleged maltreatment.

Forms are available online to assist you in making your report. The report form may include questions that you are unable to answer. In those circumstances, simply provide the information that is known to you and leads you to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect.

You may use either of the following forms:

Where can I find contact information for the authorities to whom I should report? 

The UMB Procedures has useful guidance and contact information. They are posted at

You can report to the police by calling 911. A link to local Child Protective Services Reporting Hotline Numbers appears on the CPS website at Some CPS Hotline Numbers are as follows:

Anne Arundel County 410-421-8400
Baltimore City 410-361-2235
Baltimore County 410-853-3000 (Option 1) / After hours: 410-583-9398
Cecil County 410-996-0100 (Option 3) / After hours: 410-996-5350
Harford County 410-836-4713 / After hours: 410-838-6600 Sheriff's Office
Howard County 410-872-4203 / After hours: 410-313-2929 Police Department
Montgomery County 240-777-4417
Prince George’s Co. 301-909-2450 / After hours: 301-699-8605










If you are unsure of the location where the suspected maltreatment occurred, contact the Baltimore City Child Protective Services Hotline or the Baltimore City Police Department.

If you ever have difficulty finding information about where to report or are unsure where to report, you may call 911 to make a report.

Questions About Reporting

What if I am a direct witness to child abuse that occurs in connection with the University? 

If you are a direct witness to an abusive situation involving a child, call 911 immediately and provide whatever information you have about the incident. Then follow all of the UMB Procedures for reporting suspected child abuse.

How do I know if I have enough information to have “reason to believe” that an incident may have been child abuse or neglect? 

If you do not have at least some of the essential information, you are not required to report the incident. However, you still should consider making a report if the facts that you do know genuinely lead you to suspect that child abuse or neglect occurred — even if your information is incomplete. When in doubt, please keep in mind that:

  • The decision to make a report is appropriate and protected under the law and USM Policy, as long as it is made in good faith; and
  • Child Protective Services encourages individuals to report it if they have any genuine suspicion that child abuse or neglect may have occurred.

If you have any concerns or doubts as to whether to report an incident, feel free to direct any questions to Child Protective Services or the CAO. Also, even if you determine that a disclosure or incident should not be reported as suspected child abuse or neglect, always feel free to help the person seek counseling, or medical or other assistance, if you have concerns about the person’s welfare.

If I do not have all of the necessary information, should I talk to the child to get more information? 

Generally, no. Unless you have a professional relationship with the child in which seeking personal information from the child is the norm (e.g., a counselor), you are discouraged from interviewing the child to obtain more information. Please simply report the information that you do have, and Child Protective Services will take responsibility for interviewing the child to obtain any missing information.

When an individual makes a report, is their name given to the victim or individuals involved? 

The name of the person who makes a report concerning abuse or maltreatment is kept in strict confidence and is not given to the victim or other individuals involved. Individuals who make reports are encouraged to give their names and contact information to the person taking the report so that additional information may be obtained at a later date if necessary. If an individual does not want to disclose their name, the report is still accepted.

In some situations, Child Protective Services may seek to interview the individual who made a report as part of their investigation of the suspected maltreatment. Information obtained in an interview that takes place in the course of an investigation may be part of the eventual CPS determination and any resulting proceedings related to the maltreatment incident.

What will happen to the information that I report to the University? 

The CAO will keep all reports confidential and will act on them only to assist Child Protective Services in its investigations or to respond to ensure campus safety if the incident actually implicated University activities or persons associated with the University (e.g., if a University employee is found to have committed child abuse or if abuse occurred in connection with an on-campus summer camp). Otherwise, the report will be kept securely and confidentially and not shared with anyone.

What if a student discloses an incident of child abuse but does not state where it took place? Where should I report that incident? 

Reports of child abuse or neglect are to be reported to the local Child Protective Services agency or the appropriate law enforcement agency where the abuse took place. If the location is unknown, report to Child Protective Services in the locality where the disclosure was made and follow its instructions.

Where do I report if I am working off campus? 

If you are a UMB employee or student working at a location off campus (such as a hospital, public health agency, child care institution, juvenile detention center, school, or similar institution) and are acting as a staff member of that facility, you are only required to report the suspected maltreatment to Child Protective Services and the head of that facility. You are not required to report it to the UMB Chief Accountability Officer, unless: (a) the suspected abuser or neglector is an employee, contractor, or volunteer of UMB; or (b) you were not acting as a staff member of that facility.

What if a University employee or student is working or studying in another country and learns of child abuse or neglect from a child in that country? 

They must report to law enforcement or the social service agency in the locality where the disclosure was made.

What are the consequences if I fail to report? 

If you fail to report under circumstances where reporting is required by Maryland law or USM Policy, in addition to any penalties under Maryland law, you may be subject to discipline for misconduct, up to and including termination of employment or appointment.

Reporting Past Child Abuse or Neglect Disclosed by an Adult

What about past child abuse reported by an adult? 

Reasonable suspicion of child abuse is to be reported even if the alleged abuse occurred in the past and the victim is now an adult. This requirement was clarified in an official opinion of the attorney general and is applicable to employees and other members of the USM community. See 78 Op. Att’y Gen 189 (1993) posted at

Why must I report an incident of past abuse, when the victim is now an adult? 

The intent of the law is to protect all children who are subjected to or who may be vulnerable to abuse or neglect. As the attorney general’s opinion explains, “Even if one particular victim of abuse or neglect is now an adult ... others who are still children might continue to be at risk and in need of child protective services.”

The opinion also points out that the criminal prosecution of a child abuser still can take place years after the abuse was committed and that adult victims may still benefit from services to address the effects of past child abuse or neglect.

What if the victim does not want me to report? 

Maryland law requires that you make a report whenever there is a reason to believe that a child was subjected to abuse, even if the abuse occurred in the past and the victim is now an adult. If the victim does not want you to report, you may explain that you are mandated by law to report in an effort to protect children who may be at risk. In this situation, explain the victim’s concerns when making the report.

What if the victim pleads with me not to make a report out of fear of being cut off financially and/or shunned by the family? 

Cases of past child abuse or neglect in which a victim fears retaliation and/or disownment by family members are always complicated. In such cases, allegations of child abuse or neglect must be reported to authorities. It is strongly recommended that oral and written reports include details about the family and concerns of the victim pertaining to any cultural values or belief systems that might compromise the safety and security of the victim. The USM Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Form also includes a section for you to explain to Child Protective Services any concerns that the victim has expressed or you otherwise may have in connection with filing the report.

What if the victim informs me that the abuse was investigated and resolved through the courts years ago? Do I report again? 

You are obligated to report even if the individual discloses that the case was previously heard in court. Child Protective Services will take responsibility for checking information at its disposal regarding its past investigations and the resulting outcomes to prevent duplicative investigations.

If you have questions or concerns about your obligation to report child abuse or neglect that are not answered in the USM Policy, the UMB Procedures, or this FAQ, please feel free to contact the University’s Chief Accountability Officer: 

Dr. Roger J. Ward, EdD, JD, MPA
University of Maryland, Baltimore
Office of Accountability and Compliance
620 W. Lexington St., 5th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410-706-1850