Essex County Virginia

Child Protective Services

Section 63.1-248.2 of the code of Virginia defines an abused or neglected child as any child less than eighteen years of age:

  • Whose parents or other person responsible for his care creates or inflicts, threatens to create or inflict, or allows to be created or inflicted upon such child a physical or mental injury by other than accidental means, or creates a substantial risk of death, disfigurement, or impairment of bodily or mental functions;
  • Whose parents or other person responsible for his care neglects or refuses to provide care necessary for his health. However, no child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination shall for that reason alone be considered to be an abused or neglected child;
  • Whose parents or other person responsible for his care abandons such child;
  • Whose parents or other person responsible for his care commits or allows to be committed any act of sexual exploitation or any sexual act upon a child in violation of the law; or
  • Who is without parental care or guardianship caused by the unreasonable absence or the mental or physical incapacity of the child's parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person standing in loco parentis

Physical Abuse - is defined as any act which, regardless of intent, results in non-accidental physical injury. Inflicted physical injury most often represents severe corporal punishment. Physical abuse can range from minor bruises and lacerations to severe neurological trauma and death.

Physical Neglect - is defined as the failure to provide for a child's physical survival needs to the extent that there is harm or risk of harm to the child's health or safety. Physical neglect is often chronic in nature and includes inadequate nutrition, clothing, shelter, hygiene, supervision, and medical or dental care.

Sexual Abuse - is defined as acts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of minors. Sexual abuse encompasses a broad range of behavior and may consist of many acts over a long period of time or a single incident. Sexual abuse is generally perpetrated by someone known by the child and often does not involve violence. Victims include males and females that range in age from less than one year through adolescence. Specifically, sexual abuse includes: incest, rape, intercourse, oral-genital contact, fondling, sexual propositions or enticement, indecent exposure, child pornography, or child prostitution.

Mental / Emotional Maltreatment - is defined as a pattern of acts by the caretaker which results in harm to the child's psychological or emotional health or development. The child typically demonstrates dysfunction as a result of the caretaker's behavior. A psychological assessment is recommended in helping determine mental abuse. Emotional maltreatment can include patterns of rejection, intimidation, ignoring, ridiculing, or isolation.

When you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, you should make a report as soon as possible to the local Department of Social Services. You may call the Essex County Department of Social Services, (804) 443-3561, during normal business hours. There is also a Family Services Specialist available on-call after hours to handle emergency concerns. The on-call worker can be accessed through police dispatch. Reports can be made to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline (1-800-552-7096), seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

Provide as much of the following information when reporting an incident:

  • The name, addresses, and telephone number of the child and parents or other person(s) responsible for the child's care
  • The child's birth date or age, sex and race
  • A description of the nature of the injuries or condition
  • History of prior reported incidents of injuries or maltreatment of the child or siblings
  • Reasons for suspecting abuse or neglect
  • If medical or other emergency services are necessary
  • The names and ages of other persons who live with the child and their relationship to the child
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the suspected abuser and his/her relationship to the child
  • Any other pertinent information
  • Your name (however reports may also be made anonymously)

Anyone may report abuse or neglect; however, under Virginia law, certain professionals are required to report. Mandated reporters include teachers, doctors, law enforcement, therapists, and others responsible for the care of children.

Reports may be made anonymously. However we encourage callers to leave their names so they may be contacted if additional information is needed. Also, the results of the investigation will be provided.

The identity of the caller is not revealed during the investigation. It is only revealed under order of the court in extremely rare situations.

Section 63.1-248.5 of the Code of Virginia provides protection from criminal and civil liability to the following persons unless it is proven that these persons acted with malicious intent: any person making a report of child abuse / neglect; and any person who participates in a judicial proceeding resulting from either making a report or taking a child into immediate custody.

After a report of suspected abuse or neglect is received, the report is assessed for validity. Before a referral for a family assessment or investigation, a determination must be made that the allegations meet the definition of abuse and neglect, the victim is currently under the age of 18, there is a caretaker relationship between the victim and the alleged abuser / neglector and that the abuse occurred under the local department's jurisdiction.

If a report is determined to be invalid, it does not mean that we disagree with the caller's concern, but rather that the call did not meet the above stated criteria for assessment. If the call is screened out for assessment, the caller will be notified and the information is maintained for one year. If a caller does not agree with this decision, the caller is encouraged to report any additional information or to clarify the concern.