Child protection

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, contact your county or tribal social services agency or the police. If it is an emergency, call the police at 911. For general questions regarding child protection, email DHS at

What is considered abuse and neglect in Minnesota?


Neglect is the most common form of maltreatment; over 60 percent of all reports in 2013 were allegations of neglect. Neglect is usually involves the failure of the child’s caregiver to:

  • • Supply the child with necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical or mental health care, or appropriate supervision
  • • Protect the child from conditions or actions that endanger the child
  • • Take steps to ensure that a child is educated according to the law.
  • Exposing a child to certain drugs during pregnancy and causing emotional harm to a child may also be considered neglect.

    Physical abuse

    Physical abuse is any physical injury or threat of harm or substantial injury, inflicted by a caregiver upon a child other than by accidental means. The impact of physical abuse can range from minor bruises to severe internal injuries and death. Physical abuse does not include reasonable and moderate physical discipline of a child that does not result in an injury.

    Mental injury

    Mental injury is harm to the child’s psychological capacity or emotional stability evidenced by an observable and substantial impairment of the child’s functioning.

    Sexual abuse

    Sexual abuse is the subjection of a child to a criminal sexual act or threatened act by a person responsible for the child’s care or by a person who has a significant relationship to the child or is in a position of authority.

    For additional information, Minnesota Statutes 626.556, the Reporting of Maltreatment of Minors Act, provides detailed definitions of child maltreatment.

    Minnesota Child Maltreatment Screening Guidelines

    The purpose of the Minnesota Child Maltreatment Screening Guidelines is to:

  • • Provide direction to county social service agencies
  • • Promote statewide consistency in definition and practice
  • • Inform the general public about types of child safety concerns that should be reported.
  • How to report abuse or neglect

    Call the county or tribal social service agency or the police where the child lives if you believe that a child is being hurt or neglected. To report suspected child abuse or neglect for American Indian children living on the Leech Lake or White Earth Reservations, contact your tribal child welfare agency at Leech Lake child protection or White Earth child protection or the police. Professionals whose jobs involve the care of children, such as doctors, teachers and ministers, are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Other people such as neighbors or relatives are encouraged to report if they think a child is being abused or neglect.

    For more details about reporting: Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect: A Resource Guide for Mandated Reporters in English (PDF).

    Mandated reporter training available

    Workers in a number of professions, including health care, social services, psychological treatment, child care, education, corrections, law enforcement and clergy, are required to report suspected child maltreatment. To help mandated reporters better understand the law and reporting requirements, An Interactive Informational Guide for Mandated Reporting is available. Please check back at a later date. This comprehensive training is organized in six modules: an overview of Minnesota’s child protection system, the intersection of poverty and neglect and a discussion of racial disparities, the basics of mandated reporting, physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect. The training is flexible, allowing users to navigate to any module at any time.

    About the reporting process

    For information on the child protection process, including what happens when a report of child maltreatment is accepted by a county or tribe, see the brochure Families’ Guide to Child Protection English (PDF), Hmong (PDF), Somali (PDF), and Spanish (PDF).

    How child protection helps families

    The child protection system responds to situations where children are alleged to be maltreated, and it helps support families to safely care for their children. Their role is to assess for child safety, risk factors, and family strengths and needs. Sometimes the child protection agency determines that a family need services to help support them so they can safely care for their child. Services for families may include family counseling, parenting education, assistance in applying for financial benefits, helping a family access services such as early childhood or special education children, and/or helping the family meet basic need such as housing and food.

    Each family is unique, so child protection workers assess what services, if any, the family needs, and makes every effort to provide the identified services that will best help that individual family, and in turn assure child safety. Family Assessment Response describes a comprehensive strength based approach to working with families in which there is a concern about child abuse or neglect. Family Investigations Response describes the process used when a child is in immediate or significant danger.

    Safe Place for Newborns

    The Safe Place for Newborns law allows a mother, or someone with her permission, to anonymously leave her unharmed baby born in the past seven days at a safe place without fear of prosecution.

    The Safe Place for Newborns law does not apply if a mother gives birth in a hospital.

    Safe places

  • • A hospital
  • • An urgent care facility
  • • An ambulance responding to a 911 call.
  • Publications

  • Safe Place for Newborns law fact sheet (PDF)
  • News release on Safe Place for Newborns law, August 2014 (PDF)
  • Safe Place for Newborns Flyer (PDF)
  • What’s new in child protection

    Current facts

    Each year, county and tribal child protection agencies throughout Minnesota respond to thousands of reports of maltreatment of children. In 2013, over 19,000 reports of child maltreatment were addressed by the child protection system. Approximately 72 percent of the reports received a family assessment, while the remainder received a family investigation. The Minnesota Department of Human Services works closely with state’s 87 counties and 11 American Indian tribes which provides direct services to families and children in the child protection system. More information is available in a fact sheet.

    The purpose of child protection services is to help protect children from physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse, and to help families get the services they need to end abusive behavior and/or provide for their children’s needs. The program is mandated by state and federal law (Minnesota Statute 626.556, the Reporting of Maltreatment of Minors Act, and CAPTA, the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act).

    Practice guide contains tips for engaging stressed families

    To overcome the initial reluctance of many families to participate in voluntary child welfare programs, social workers need effective strategies for engaging families during an initial outreach contact. Tactics for first meetings with families living under stressful conditions, as well as suggestions to help workers maintain family engagement and partnership, are organized in a new publication, Engaging Families in Voluntary Child Welfare Services Practice Guide.

    Child Welfare Practice Model provides common platform

    The Minnesota Department of Human Services and its county and tribal partners strive to support families and communities by engaging in essential partnerships needed to secure positive outcomes for children and youth served by the child welfare system. The Minnesota Child Welfare Practice Model provides a common platform to guide mutual efforts.

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