Is It Child Abuse? Community Response Guides Can Help

Is It Child Abuse? Community Response Guides Can Help

April 19, 2019 | Evident Change

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Have you ever been unsure about whether to report child abuse or neglect? You want to do what’s best for the family but aren’t certain if child protective services (CPS) is the solution, or you worry about the disruption it could cause for the family. Are you seeing signs of abuse and neglect, or are they signs of everyday life?

Educators, medical professionals, law enforcement, and other members of every community are mandated to report concerns of suspected child abuse or neglect, but the decision to report is often complicated by competing concerns. Mandated reporters must decide whether to report child abuse or neglect knowing that failure to report may leave a child in danger; however, inappropriate reporting may lead to unneeded interventions by overly invasive systems as well as an ineffective use of resources.

Mandated reporter requirements and training vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as do the types of situations in which mandated reporters must make reports. While they do not need to prove that the abuse or neglect occurred, mandated reporters do need to provide pertinent information to the child protection agency when there is suspicion or reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected.

Factors that influence reporting decisions also vary among mandated reporters. Some factors that play into decision making are unique and come from individual experiences or professional expertise, while others may be more implicit. The result is that the exact same situation could get reported by one person and not reported by another. By establishing a standard and providing structure around reporting, there is an opportunity to eliminate some of the implicit bias and achieve greater consistency in reporting practices among mandated reporters.

Within the last few years, Evident Change has developed child protection reporting guides with partners in Australia and Singapore to help mandated reporters from different community stakeholder groups measure their concerns against an established standard. While this is still somewhat new, the hope is that using this guide will help:

  • Create a common language among reporters;
  • CPS agencies receive the most appropriate reports for screening and response decisions;
  • Ensure that children and families requiring statutory CPS are promptly reported;
  • Increase direct CPS contact for families who need it by eliminating time spent on reports that could be diverted for more appropriate community-based service(s);
  • Provide alternative options for reporters to assist children and families who would be better served outside of the statutory child protection system;
  • Provide reporters with clear guidance to support difficult decision making; and
  • Allow for communities to recognize their shared responsibility for supporting and serving children and families.

For more information on Evident Change’s community response guides, contact Phil Decter, Director of Child Welfare, at (800) 306-6223.