Penalties for Falsely Reporting Child Abuse

The Jerry Sandusky criminal trial is over; the civil lawsuits are in active settlement mode. Undoubtedly, the entire country is more tuned into child abuse than it ever was. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that about 105 bills on the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect have been introduced in 2012 legislative sessions in 30 states and the District of Columbia. 1 All of them include a penalty for failing to report suspected child abuse.

Oregon is one of the states which recently enacted child abuse reporting legislation. It added to the list of mandated reporters any employee or volunteer of organization providing child-related services or activities, any employee of a higher education institution, and any coach, assistant coach or trainer of child athlete and individual who provides guidance, instruction or training in youth development activities and youth camps.

Overlooked in the wake of this new awareness is the sad reality of false allegations of child abuse. There is no disputing that child abuse is a serious and pervasive worldwide problem. 2 In most situations, abuse allegations are made responsibly, based on actual abuse. Sometimes they are not.

To address this concern, Oregon also passed legislation regarding the false reporting of child abuse. The law 3 reads:

(1) A person commits the offense of making a false report of child abuse if, with the intent to influence a custody, parenting time, visitation or child support decision, the person:

(a) Makes a false report of child abuse to the Department of Human Services or a law enforcement agency, knowing that the report is false; or

(b) With the intent that a public or private official make a report of child abuse to the Department of Human Services or a law enforcement agency, makes a false report of child abuse to the public or private official, knowing that the report is false.

(2) Making a false report of child abuse is a Class A violation.”

In fact, most states 4 have similar statutes. For instance, Arkansas 5 provides that:
“(a) A person commits the offense of making a false report under this chapter if he or she purposely makes a report containing a false allegation to the Child Abuse Hotline knowing the allegation to be false.

(b) (1) A first offense of making a false report under this chapter is a Class A misdemeanor. (2) A subsequent offense of making a false report under this chapter is a Class D felony.”
Colorado 6 provides that “No person … shall knowingly make a false report of abuse or neglect to a county department or local law enforcement agency. Any person who willfully violates the provisions …commits a class 3 misdemeanor and shall be punished … [and] shall be liable for damages proximately caused thereby.”

The repercussions of false abuse allegations are traumatizing and stigmatizing to the child allegedly abused. The child may have to undergo unnecessary psychological and medical examinations. And commonly, rifts between the child and his or her parents and siblings may develop. In the divorce and custody context, an accusation of child abuse may begin in family court, but it can quickly wind up in civil, criminal, and juvenile courts.

When child abuse allegations are true, CPS must do everything possible to protect the child. When false accusations are made, the accused individual’s morally upright reputation can be permanently damaged. CPS workers know that abuse allegations are difficult to prove. Learning to decipher false allegations from real ones is a demanding and perpetual challenge. In either case, they can lead to protracted and difficult legal battles.


2 See e.g. Lalor, K. & McElvaney, R. (2010). Child sexual abuse, links to later sexual exploitation/high risk sexual behavior and prevention/treatment programmes. Trauma, Violence and Abuse, (11), 159-177.

3 ORS 419B.016.

4 AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, DC, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MA, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NY, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VI, WA, WY. A summary of state laws regarding penalties for the failure to report and false reporting of child abuse, written by the Child Welfare Information Gateway, is available at

5 Title 12, Subtitle 2, Chapter 18, Subchapter 2, § 12-18-203.

6 CRS Title 19, Article 3, Part 3, § 19-3-304.

Daniel Pollack is a professor at Yeshiva University’s School of Social Work in New York City and a frequent expert witness in child welfare cases. He can be reached at This article originally appeared in Policy & Practice, 71(1), 30 (2013).

8 Replies to "Penalties for Falsely Reporting Child Abuse"

  • bethany
    August 24, 2013 (11:34 am)

    It all started in 2007 when my ex-husband started having his family and friends make false reports to cps he was abusive and was soon after in February of 2008 sent to prison for domestic violence for family violence I then met my husband now at the time i had one child during my ex-husbands prison stay he had one of his friends make outrageous reports to cps such as my new boyfriend was sticking pickles in my daughter we had to go threw all kids of hell including having to be separated due to a safety plan cps put in affect even though there was no evidence that any abuse accrued even after examination we had somewhat of a breather but when my ex husband got out of prison and found out that i was marring my new husband and that we were having a baby the calls started again and got even worse when my oldest daughter was scared to see her father so i would not make her go cps was coming to my home repetitively with the same malicious reports i had another baby december 17 2010 we got into a bind and made a bad decision and me and a roommate stated prostituting and were arrested she got the chance to have a family member get her daughter from daycare they would not let me make a call they took our two kids march 28th 2011 we fought cps for our kids they would always find another thing we needed to do they would bring up a case that was dismissed on my husband they did not even consider the abuse that i had brought to their attention that might of occurred at my husbands home he was not even doing the services they requested we did everything they asked we found out we were preg again and had a baby feb 17th 2012 she was flown to dallas on feb 20th cps took her from the hospital but there was no reason she died in their care march 28th 2012 there was never a investigation by the police we continued to fight for our other two kids in june i was told by my therapist that if they could not figure out who sexually abused naleia that she would never be returned even though there was no outstanding proof anything even happened on July 28th my husband was forced to take a second poly graph and it was inconclusive we needed a pass in hopes they would stop thinking he did anything my husband was so depressed he tried to kill himself after saying he did it but sent a letter to his mom saying he did not but thought that i would be able to get the girls if he confessed and ended his life he did not succeed later in the year we took our case to trial with court appointed lawyers who did not fight very hard for us we wanted a jury trial but were hounded by our lawyers to go judge they took our rights to our children we appealed but were denied again this April we did everything we were suppose to and were capable parents who made a mistake we love our girls and we can no longer see them not even a photo and we never got justice for our daughter who died in their care we are lost at what do do the system seems corrupt they gave our daughter who was four at the time psychotropic medicines and took forever to take out 2 yr old to get tubes we are worried about the way the system is going and that this is happening to other parents that are good parents and should get a chance to raise their children

  • concerned fiance
    March 10, 2016 (12:43 pm)

    I met my fiancé in 20013 an his 1st child’s mother was in jail for leaving their child in the car while she ran in the store. Well she went to jail for that an got served 11/29. well while she was in there she found out that me an my fiancé was having a baby an that he wasn’t going to be with her anymore. Well her oldest daughter said to her mother (in visitation a) ” mommy I can get him in here”. Well not to long after that we went to go see his mother witch is right above the hill from the grandmother an that is when my fiance’s mother to us that he was being fasley accused of touching hi ex’s child from 3 years ago. Yeah the grandmother waited 3 years to say anything an the granny sent off some so called evidence an it came back fine that there was nothing in the panties but what I don’t get is she sent the child’s mother’s panties off instead of the child’s. Well we had our daughter an I was taken medicine to help me with my with draws an wasn’t suppose to get in my babies system but low an behold it did. So I tried to give temporary custody to my fiancé but they said he was an alleged sex offender but we haven’t had to go to court, got any paper, or had a cop approach us or nothing. So I had to get my mother to take her an I asked them how that was because everything came back fine but yet they are still saying that how is that possible. The social worker said “well the state did their investigation an we have to do our an we found it to be true..” Oh I was heated… I don’t understand how the state can do their investigation and then the social workers has to do their owe also over top of the states.. Now can someone please explain to me how the DCBS can go over the state.????.. An now they are trying to say it again but they are contradicting themselves an I have evidence this time to prove that they are lying an no one ha said anything about court or he wasn’t arrested for it or nothing. It’s like you can just ruin someone’s life an go on with theirs without any consequences. So does anyone no what to o or been through this or have any ideas because I am turning in my evidence to DCBS an prove my fiancé is innocent…

    • Concerned Wife
      April 26, 2016 (4:32 pm)

      Girl my husband is going through this he was falsely accused of raping his ex girlfriends daughter. The ex girlfriend is a meth addict and heroin addict. She got mad cause my husband her ex wasn’t giving her money for her drugs and didn’t give her his dads truck it made her mad so she accused him of raping her daughter. We went to his trial and it was a set up trial. His lawyer wasn’t helping him because she’s a court appointed lawyer. We have all the evidence proving he didn’t do this but nobody wanted to look at it. He’s a wonderful father and a wonderful husband he would go out of his way to take care of children even if they aren’t his. They still convicted him without any evidence. The little girls doctor even said she wasn’t penetrated. He’s sentenced to 25 years in prison. Well we are going to every possible place that will help him hopefully someone will be able to open a new case to get my husband out. I hope everything works out for you girl just know God has this. The truth will come out.

  • kelly moy
    June 9, 2016 (6:14 am)

    please sign this petition requesting federal government to make child abuse a federal government issue.


    Child abuse in the USA needs to end; stopping child abuse should be a federal government issue and a priority.
    Created by K.M. on June 09, 2016

    Sign This Petition

    Needs 99,999 signatures by July 9, 2016 to get a response from the White House

    1 SIGNED 100,000 GOAL
    In nearly every serious case of child abuse there has been one or more reports made to CPS at the state level. I have been following Child Protective Services cases as it is handled on the state level for over 10 years. For some reason often the most serious cases of child abuse become overlooked by CPS workers. Children should be protected by federal law. Protecting children should be a priority of the federal government. The individual 50 departments of CPS in each state have vastly different standards on intervention and appropriate action to protect kids. Federal law needs to protect kids. Historically and as the law is now, children do not have the rights and protection for their safety that is needed. Any and all levels of government need to increase safety standards of kids.

    • V
      July 9, 2016 (7:40 pm)

      Huge case against Cps in Sonoma county
      Or as we call it soprano county

  • Fed Up Parent
    August 29, 2016 (3:14 pm)

    Colorado needs stricter “FALSE REPORTING” laws. Especially against school officials that use it as a form of revenge, and punishment against those parents that try to advocate for their children. The previous school psychologist at Eldorado, filed TWO false reports with Boulder County Child Services. All because we complained about her refusal to follow our daughters’ IEPs. We were able to prove every malicious statement Tiffani reported was intentional lies. However, the psychological damage Tiffani caused our children is irreversible. Unfortunately, people like Tiffani are allowed to jump from one job to another, without employers knowing her history. More needs to be done to stop the abuse in our schools from the people that are supposed to be TEACHING, and HELPING our children. It’s time to stop the people that abuse their position of power.

    The Boulder County D.A. refused to even consider an investigation. Since False Reporting is ONLY a misdemeanor, it wasn’t important enough to look at the evidence we provided him. Plus, he said he was too busy with other cases. It’s no wonder school officials abuse their position of power, and trust. They know that no one will ever hold them accountable!! We were told by the assistant superintendent that, “they can report, and say whatever they want, and there wasn’t anything parents could do about it because they were protected by the “reporting laws”. When we informed him that it was against the law to file false reports, he said, “Good luck proving that”. Arrogant people like that should NOT be running our schools.

    While the Colorado Dept. of Education, and the Office of Civil Rights held the school accountable, Tiffani was NOT held accountable for her illegal actions of “False Reporting”. Fortunately, she has moved on to private practice, and is no longer employed by BVSD!!

  • erica
    November 11, 2016 (7:01 am)

    My ex and i split up when my son was three months old he is now going to be turning two nonmember 18th his father and grandmother pressed false abuse charges on me and the state cant prove anything on me but they still are holding my son away from me stating that at this point its between his father and i but his father wont give him back and the law enforcement wont do a stand by for me either his father has no rights since we have never been married i need some answers and i need them fast please help me

  • Alisa Martin
    December 12, 2016 (4:03 pm)

    Hi my name is Christie I am have a problem with my ex and baby father he has called cos and police to my house he has also made complaints to friend of court none of his accusations have been found to be true all because he doesn’t feel he has to pay child support I am praying u can Gide me tell me what I can do I live in Michigan I pray u can help me I really don’t know what to do thank u very much for your time