Mandated Reporting

Well, I guess I passed the test because the website
gave me a certificate. Mine didn't print out very well because the printer's almost out of ink or I'd show it to you.

The test is on mandated reporting of child abuse, who should do it, why, and how. Child abuse, for the record is something that is going on in a kid's home, or maybe in a close relative or guardian's home. If the person allegedly abusing the child isn't family, it's not abuse. It's a crime.

This comes up because school's in session, so teachers in Illinois, who are mandated reporters, are being asked to go to the DCFS* website for training on mandated reporting.

But teachers aren't the only ones who are mandated reporters for child abuse and neglect.

Maybe you are, too.

Here's a quick list of professionals required by law to inform authorities about suspected child abuse or neglect. Anyone, even non-mandated reporters, can make a report however (anonymously if you like) by calling 1-800-25-ABUSE.

Go to the the DCFS** website to find out more about the signs of child abuse, things that should make a person suspicious about maltreatment.

But quickly, mandated reporters include people who work with children, and they are required by Illinois law to report suspected child abuse. The list includes, but is not limited to teachers, school personnel, doctors, nurses, clerical people in schools and community agencies, child care workers, law enforcement officers, social workers, social service administrators, firemen, and clergy. There's an extensive list on the site and a cute interactive puzzle. Take the time to visit. Have some fun.

The training and testing took me a half an hour, and I learned things. You can get 2 hours of continuing education credit, too.

You also get nifty downloads if you want them. The decision tree is interesting, tells you what happens after you've made a report, and for those who feel uncomfortable with the whole business, there's a great one from the child's perspective, should you have the privilege to gain a child's trust:

• Use words I will understand
Always use age-appropriate words.
• Never say you'll keep this a secret
Never promise the child that you will keep what they tell you a secret. Explain to the child your role is to ensure she is safe.
• Don't tell everyone
Although you cannot promise to keep the information a secret, you should assure the child that you will not share this information with her peers or anyone who really does not need to know about it to keep her safe.

• Explain you still care about me
Reassure the child that what she told you will not change the way you feel about her. Children are often afraid that you will think they are bad, or that what happened to them was their fault.

• Disclosure may be difficult for me
Always keep in mind how difficult it has been for the child to tell you this.


They may have been threatened not to tell.

They may feel embarrassed or ashamed.

They may have tested others and decided it was not safe to disclose.

They will be watching your reaction very carefully. As often as possible, try to keep the child informed about what will happen next. She will likely be very anxious. If appropriate, let the child know you will be calling DCFS and explain that it is the job of DCFS to keep children safe.

• Find out answers for me
The child will probably have lots of questions about what will happen that you cannot answer. Don't make up an answer. It's OK to tell the child that you don't know what will happen. It may help to tell the child that you know this is hard for her.

So getting comfortable with approaching and listening to children is the objective, here. And following the law to the very letter. It's the least we can do.


*DCFS is the Department of Child and Family Services, a state of Illinois agency.


Anonymous said…
it is interesting ....i have this cream where i want to help my friend but I feel bad about working for him because I know that he drinks and does other unkosher things (smoking etc) at home and in my dream i want o call the police or i do call the police but I have a hard time reporting him as I don't want him to get in trouble or I get in trouble (and of course not being yelled and screamed at is good) --but this and various versions of this dream appears...i haven't seen this person in ages but i think of them often...
therapydoc said…
Guilt or fear dream, right? The cool thing about being mandated is that if you're suspicious about child abuse, you don't have a choice about reporting. No guilt. No nothing. It's the law. You have to do it. I've done it many times. It gets easier and easier.

Do I worry about personal repercussions? Sometimes. Less now than I did in my twenties.
Anonymous said…
Bless you.

I have been that child... many years ago, when it was easier for adults to look the other way and societal pressures were to not interfere in family matters.

I had teachers and neighbors who I know understood - and they helped as much as they could. I lost them, as well.

When the abuser is a family member, and the abuse isn't sexual or physical, no one believes a child - and yes, the child blames themself; believes they deserve the abuse. This invisible abuse is the hardest on the child, if allowed to continue and no other refuge is open to him or her.

After 40 years, I'm finally free of the various curses I've endured because of that abuse (and there was also a sexual assault thrown in for good measure). But I know that I wasn't exceptionally special; I know this goes on all the time. And it pains me to see evidence of this in public, even.

Bless you for trying to do something about it. For caring. Every single one of use who have survived and continue to heal, thank you.
nashbabe said…
In the city where I live, I watched a TV show on a public access type channel (not deliberately, but you know how it goes with the remote.) I stopped clicking the remote when I realized it was an attorney that worked with child services. He said that 75% of the reports they get don't end up being abuse. I know that if someone got up the guts to call, they quite possibly should have a while ago and just now got up the nerve. To think that they seem to blow off so many reports is disheartening and unmotivating to those of us who are not mandated. I have seen a child I know have their situation reported to child services through the school they attended. They didn't do it lightly, or without extreme concern. The report was not only quickly dismissed, but the social worker actually told the mother who had reported her. So illegal. And so frustrating for the rest of us.
barfly said…
So you're saying that even if a person exercises every day that they can still get depressed?
linrob63 said…
Thank you for this post. The Tip Sheet is a great idea. So is mandated reporting.

My greatest impediment to disclosure was the expectation that I would be forever changed in someone's eyes. I did not have words for that when I was 12. And I certainly did not understand that I had instead been forever changed in my own eyes. I do not think I understood that yet at 22. Or even 32. Maybe by the time I was 42 I got it.

The self imposed isolation of keeping it secret seemed easier to hold than that which I was sure would follow if I shared.

Disclosure is tricky that way.

Thanks again for the post. And thanks for getting back to the advisory council. If more thoughtful and caring people make a commitment to working at it, maybe a solution can be found.

Even if we fail, we owe it to the kids to try.
porcini66 said…
Denial runs so deeply. We deny child sexual abuse in communities, families deny that it could exist in their homes, and, in the end, even the child denies that it was "that bad".

30 years later, I am only now realizing that it WAS that bad. And that it shaped how I view my world and how I interact with my world and how I handle my world. Who knew?
Blognut said…
I have so much to say about this post that I could just about write my own. Porcini, Linrob... I'm with you. I wonder how many of us would have been helped in some way if someone had told the stories we could not tell for ourselves.

I struggle mightily with the knowledge that my whole life has been shaped by years of sexual abuse and that it might have been so much different if only....
therapydoc said…
And I'm not at ALL finished with this, you should know.
Kathy with a K said…
sometimes, "the least we can do" is
all it takes. As Blognut stated above, things may have been very different if only...
Not easy to break the silence of abuse; even more difficult when it's a family member or other trusted authority. Anything we can do to break that silence is helpful.
(*check out "Stolen Tomorrows" by Steven and Abby Levenkron)
Secret Shadows said…
I am a teacher, and as such a mandated reporter. I just want to say that in talking with other teachers there is great misunderstanding on exactly what "suspected" means. So many teachers out there seem to feel they can't make a report unless they are sure, or they feel like they need some sort of definitive proof. The reality is that, as teachers, we merely need to suspect/have reason to suspect. It is not our jobs to clarify the validity of our suspicions. That is the job of Family and Children Services. I wish more people understood that.
therapydoc said…
Secret, Thanks. Absolutely. I rely on people like you to fill in the obvious blanks for me.