Do you know what that means? When you are a mandated reporter, that means that you are in a profession that is among those mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect. It is an aspect of your job that, hopefully, you don’t have to think about very often. Reporting suspected child abuse or neglect is always difficult, so it’s important to be prepared in case you are faced with making a report.
Here are a few tips for knowing what to do:
Be familiar with your local policies & procedures – If you aren’t sure how to handle your suspicion or how to make or document a report to Child Protective Services (CPS), find out. Ask you supervisor. It’s much better to know what to do before you’re faced with making a report.
Review this guide from the VA Department of Social Services: A Guide for Mandated Reporters in Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect (PDF, New Window)
Educate yourself about signs and symptoms of child abuse & neglect in infants and toddlers. Here are a few good resources:
Knowing How to Connect the Dots: Recognizing and Responding to Abuse & Neglect (free archived webinar)
Remember, you don’t have to have proof. You are mandated to report your suspicion, and then it is the job of CPS to determine whether the abuse or neglect actually occurred.
Look for patterns and ask questions. If you see something suspicious, or even just something that puzzles you, ask. There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation. If there isn’t, or if you are still concerned, talk to your supervisor if you need further help deciding whether or not to make a report.
Document any suspicions you have, any CPS reports made and contact from CPS. Keep an objective record of your observations and conversations. This can help you identify patterns that may indicate that further assistance is needed. It can also help you in case you are called to testify or the child’s record is subpoenaed.
Trust your gut feeling. Talk to someone if you have a concern.
What Would You Do?
Now that you have more information, take a few minutes to challenge yourself to see what you would do if you were faced with this situation:
Leila has been visiting Grady’s home weekly for several months. On a visit last month, she noticed that Grady, who is 7 months old, had several bruises on his upper arm. When she asked about them, his mom said that she grabbed his arm to stop him from falling off the couch. Last week, Grady had red marks on his thigh that resembled finger prints but Leila wasn’t sure if that was what she saw. When she left the visit today, she was even more concerned because she saw a cluster of bruises of different colors on Grady’s back. When she asked about them, his mother said that she didn’t know where those came from since Grady falls so much.
What about this story makes you suspicious? If you were Leila, what would you do? Should she make a report? Share your thoughts in the comments below.