This page is set up for the citizens of Rutherford County to help in the understanding of what is considered child abuse and what actually is a reportable offense and what is not.
Child Abuse investigations in the State of Tennessee are regulated so that Law Enforcement and the Department of Children Services work in unison in an attempt to minimize the trauma to the victims. This allows for either agency to begin or take referrals from citizens that would initiate an investigation. Therefore, if you wish to report an incident, you can do so by calling either the Sheriff's Office at (615) 898-7916, or the Department of Children Services at (615) 898-5153. An anonymous report can be made by calling a 24 hour hotline at 1-877-237-0004.
Examples of a reportable offense: any sexual abuse of a child under the age of 18, any physical abuse of a child under the age of 18, neglect situations of children (young children being left alone for long periods of time, no adult supervision, extremely dirty home, children not being fed, clothed properly, or domestic violence in the home that is ongoing.
Citizens should be aware that by law any reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect is done so in good faith. Therefore, person(s) making a referral has immunity from any civil or criminal liability. It should also be noted that those who know or suspect child abuse and fail to report it are guilty of breaking the Law and could be charged with Failure to Report.
Citizens should know also that there is no law that says how long children can be left alone and at what age a child can be left alone. Guidelines have been set that at age eight (8) given the totality of the circumstances, a child can be left alone and at age 13 a child can baby-sit younger siblings. This is not black and white and the totality of the circumstances are considered when investigating these types of situations, such as maturity level of child, how long the child is left alone and how many siblings are left with an older one.
In fact, there is no area in crimes against children that is black and white. This is why we urge the citizens of Rutherford County to get involved and if you believe there is a problem or that someone needs our help to call or e-mail the Rutherford County Sheriff's Dept Detective Division and let us answer any questions you may have about Child Abuse.
One may note that if an offense is reported to Department of Children's Services, a priority stamp is assigned to that report. They take in to consideration the severity of the offense and what type abuse that is being reported as to when they will begin the investigation. For example, sex abuse in the home would be a same day investigation but if you reported a neglect situation, the investigation by that Department may not begin for up to 7 days. There are some cases that may not meet the criteria of a Children Services investigation and they will not respond. If you feel strongly about a case you reported and the Department of Children's Services did not respond, please contact this Division and explain the situation and we will respond appropriately.
Rutherford County Sheriff's Office
Criminal Investigations Division