Reporting Suspected Child Abuse

Last week we talked about identifying potential child abuse. This week, we’ll address reporting suspected abuse.

The first point is to remember that we are child care professionals, we are not investigators. Our job is to know how to identify signs of potential abuse and to report those signs objectively. We then allow the trained investigators to do their jobs. Just as I get upset when people have the “any monkey can do it” attitude toward my job (you know, the “you have a child, so you can be a child care provider” attitude), I have to understand that I am not trained to conduct a proper investigation.

The second point in reporting suspected abuse is to realize that we all are mandated to do it. And, even if it wasn’t a legal mandate, we are duty-bound by our decision to spend our lives caring for children. As I tell my staff, child abuse is rarely a one-time thing. Your report may be the only thing that stands between that child and years of abuse. No, filing a report isn’t easy, but it must be done.

The third point is knowing the proper way to make a report and ensuring that your staff knows the proper way as well. This varies from state to state and possibly county to county. It can even vary from year to year, depending upon your area.

And, if you have flexibility on how the reporting is done, you need to make sure that you have a policy in place that ensures your staff knows exactly how YOU want it done (within legal limits). In one of my former positions, as the Director, I was required to make the report. Then, the following year, in the same program, the regulations changed and the individual who noticed the indicator had to make the report personally. This was very difficult for one of my staff members, but she had to do it. As her Director, I could no longer do it for her. All I could do was talk her through it, hold her hand while she made the call, and hold her while she cried afterwards.

Again, it’s not easy, but our top priority must be protecting children, not staying in our own comfort zones. If you don’t already have a policy in place to make sure that your staff knows how to report suspected child abuse, check ours out here.