Reporting suspected abuse or neglect may be a difficult decision, but the sooner a concern is reported, the sooner the child can be helped.
Professionals such as educators, healthcare providers and mental health providers are considered mandatory reporters. They are required by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect. In Colorado, it is a class 3 misdemeanor for a mandated reporter to fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect or to knowingly make a false report.
Mandatory reporters should report to their county department of social services, the local law enforcement agency, or through the child abuse reporting hotline system if there is:
Reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect
A child is subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect
What Can Schools and SBHCs Do?
As a rule, when in doubt, report.
Reporting is anonymous and failure to report can result in criminal charges.
Tell your administrator. Make sure he or she is aware of your suspicion and that you are required by law to report your suspicion.
Document as much factual information as possible- bruises, comments, disturbing or sexual writing, sexual themes in play, etc.
Interview the student you suspect is being abused.
Ask open questions about what you’ve observed, but do not ask leading questions to the child.
DO ask open questions (ex., “Tell me how you got these bruises.”)
DO NOT ask leading questions (ex., “So your Dad is abusing you, right?”)
Let the child disclose to you what is happening. Be aware that the child may not tell you the truth, and you should still disclose if you suspect the child is hiding abuse.
It’s all right to say: “I suspect abuse but I don’t have proof.”
Want More Information?
Check out this training from the Colorado Office of Children, Youth & Families and the Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline.
Source: Colorado Association of School-Based Health Care