Child Protective Services

Child Protective Services (CPS) is the investigative division of the Department, and includes the Department’s hotline. This division ensures each child and youth is protected from harm through the timely investigation of reports of child abuse and neglect. CPS receives, screens and responds to reports of suspected child maltreatment.

CPS operates 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. Investigators receive and screen reports of suspected abuse and neglect on the Department’s hotline (1-800-RI-CHILD) and conduct associated investigations, as needed.

All persons in Rhode Island are required by law (RIGL 40-11-3) to report known or suspected cases of child abuse and/or neglect to the Department within 24 hours of becoming aware of such abuse/neglect. Reports of abuse and neglect originate from several sources including the public, courts, hospitals, police departments, parents and relatives as well as other sources.


A “child” is any person under the age of eighteen (18).

An abused or neglected child is defined by Rhode Island law as meaning a child whose physical or mental health or well-being is harmed when their parent or another person responsible for them:

  • Inflicts physical or mental injury. Or creates a substantial risk to be created for the result of a physical and/or mental injury.
  • Commits, or allows to be committed, an act of sexual abuse.
  • Fails to supply adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care even when financially able to or has access to other reasonable means.
  • Fails to provide a minimum degree of care, supervision, or guardianship.
  • Abandons or deserts the child.
  • Sexually exploits the child; commits or allows to be committed any sexual offense against the child.

The Rhode Island law defining child abuse and neglect in the state of Rhode Island can be found by clicking on the following link: § 40-11-2: Abused and Neglected Children.

The DCYF will initiate a Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation when a report meets a combination of the following criteria:

  • A reporter has expressed concerns about a child under the age of eighteen (18), who lives in Rhode Island in his/her own home.
  • A reporter has expressed concerns about a child under the age of twenty-one (21), who is living in DCYF foster or institutionalized care.
  • Harm or substantial risk of harm to the child must be present.
  • A specific incident or pattern of incidents suggesting child abuse and/or neglect must be identified.
  • The potential perpetrator of abuse is a person responsible for the child’s welfare or is living in the same home as the child. For example:
    • A parent, guardian, or foster parent.
    • A residential home or facility staff.
    • Child day care staff or other child care provider.
    • An employee, agent, contractor, of volunteer of an educational program when the allegation involves sexual abuse of a child.
    • Anyone suspected of sex trafficking a child.

All Rhode Islanders are mandated reporters by law (RI Gen. Laws §§ 40-11-3; 40-11-6). This means any person who has reasonable cause to know or suspect any child has been abused or neglected (as defined by law), or is a victim of sexual abuse by another child, must report this information to the DCYF within twenty-four (24) hours.

Reporter Confidentiality and Anonymous Reports

All reporters’ information is required by law to be kept confidential. Anyone can also make an anonymous report.

False Reports of Child Abuse or Neglect

However, any person who knowingly and willfully makes or causes to be made to the department a false report of child abuse or neglect shall be charged with a misdemeanor, and if convicted, shall be fined and/or imprisoned (§ 40-11-3.2).

DCYF has a single, statewide toll-free Hotline operates twenty-four (24) hours per day, seven (7) days per week.

This telephone line is dedicated to the receipt of reports concerning abuse and neglect. The number is 1-800-RI-CHILD (1-800-742-4453). All calls are recorded. You may call anonymously.

A DCYF Child Protective Investigator (CPI) will answer the phone.

Some helpful hints to remember when reporting abuse and neglect:
  • The most helpful and accurate reports are recent and made by the person who witnessed the cause to suspect abuse or neglect.
  • Specific and concrete information is needed most: What did you see? What did you hear said? How was the child harmed or put at risk?
  • If you are not making the report anonymously, be prepared to share some identifying information. For example, you might be asked your name, your job, where you live, your relationship to the child, whether there were additional witnesses.
  • Please be aware the CPI cannot make the determination at the time of your report which CPI will be assigned the case, if it is investigated. But if you leave your name and phone number, you will be contacted once the field investigator has been assigned.
  • All calls to the hotline are recorded.
  • If you are not making the call anonymously, you will be asked your personal information.
  • You will be asked if you need an interpreter.
  • What is the incident you would like to report?
  • When did the incident happen?
  • Were there any other witnesses to the incident being reported?
  • You will be asked several questions about the child:
    • What is child’s name? Does the child have any siblings?
    • How old is the child? How old are any other children involved in the report?
    • What is the child’s current location?
    • Where does the child go to school? What time is school dismissed?
    • What is the address of the child’s family? What is their contact information?
    • What is the child’s mother’s name?
    • What adults are living in the home?