April is Child Abuse Prevention Month
Michigan Child Abuse Hotline: 1- 855-444-3911
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. This notably directly affects children in foster care. As a foster parent, I’ve had children in my home that had been abused so badly the scars will never erase – not physically and not emotionally. The abuse was so extreme in one case that a life prison sentence was delivered to the abuser. It should never hurt to be a child, but the U.S. has one of the worst records of child abuse of all first world countries.
Childhelp (see http://www.childhelp.org for more information), a national organization centered around prevention and treatment of child abuse, reports the following annual statistics:
- “Referrals to state child protective services involve 6.6 million children, and around 3.2 million of those children are subject to an investigated report.”
- In 2014, state agencies found an estimated 702,000 victims of child maltreatment.”
- “A report of child abuse is made [in the U.S.] every ten seconds.”
- An “average [of] between four and seven children [die] every day to child abuse and neglect.”
This is not a problem to ignore. It is not a problem to let families deal with on their own. Children need someone to speak for them. So let’s talk reporting…
Different states have slightly different reporting laws, so we’re going to talk Michigan laws for now. Now, keep in mind that the law protects (and possibly REQUIRES) you in reporting SUSPECTED maltreatment. You do not have to have proof. You don’t have to have details. You just have to have suspicion of abuse or neglect. Other people will look at your report and decide whether it warrants an investigation. IF it gets investigated, then more eyes on the case will determine whether there actually is something going on that the child needs protected from.
Two things here I want to address that people get concerned about. First, they wonder whether what they have to report is “enough.” Keep in mind that your “little” report may be one of several little reports that have been given. Your little report may in fact be the tipping point that gets someone to check in on a child’s safety. So little things should be reported, too. Sometimes little things add up. Sometimes they’re really just the tip of the iceberg. Second, people tend to be afraid the state will quickly come in and remove children from their parents if they report. You need to understand that if it’s safe and reasonable to do so, other services and safety plans will often be attempted before a removal happens. It’s only if children are determined to be at significant or immediate risk that they’re removed. And even if they are removed, even MORE eyes will examine things to see if they need to stay removed for a while while the parents work to get things safe or if they can go back to their parents right away. So don’t think that the state just comes in a takes away kids left and right. To be frank…they can’t afford to. It costs them money and there aren’t enough foster homes to put them in. There are many places in our state where there aren’t even enough homes to take the babies that need care. BABIES!!
If you do need to make a report, call 855-444-3911 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Have as much information available as you can, but don’t feel bad if you don’t have information they ask for. Generally, you’ll be asked to provide the following:
- The child’s name, date of birth, address, phone number, grade, and school
- The parents’ names, birthdays, addresses, phone numbers, jobs, and whether they’re at home during the day
- Information about other children in the home, including names and ages
- A description of what you’re reporting
You have the option of providing your information (do so if you can) or of remaining anonymous. You’ll then be given a case number so you can follow-up, change the report, add information to it, etc.
Quick tip…sometimes you’re on hold for a while when you call to report. Don’t get annoyed. Think of the reason you’re on hold…it means a lot of people have reason to suspect that kids (or the elderly) are in danger. But I do recommend having something to keep you busy in case of a wait. I generally have emails to answer or papers to grade before I sit down to call. In my experience, Monday mornings have the longest wait times.
But do you have to report? Everyone in Michigan CAN report, and I encourage you to do so. (Only two groups of people can withhold information about suspected child abuse or neglect despite reporting laws: 1) Clergy can IF it’s presented in a confessional capacity and 2) Attorneys can if it falls within laws of privileged information.)
|Mandated Reporters Include:|
|Physicians||Licensed emergency medical care providers.|
|Licensed master social workers.||School counselors.|
|Licensed bachelor’s social workers.||Teachers.|
|Registered social service technicians.||Law enforcement officers.|
|Registered dental hygienists.||Marriage and family therapists.|
|Social service technicians.||Members of the clergy.|
|Medical examiners.||Licensed professional counselors.|
|Persons employed in a professional capacity in any office of the Friend of the Court.||Regulated child care providers.|
|School administrators.||Employees of an organization or entity that, as a result of federal funding statutes, regulations, or contracts, would be prohibited from reporting in the absence of a state mandate or court order (example: domestic violence provider).|
Here are some helpful links:
- Michigan Mandated Reporter Information (Includes Training Resources)
- Reporting Abuse
- Mandated Reporting Guide for the U.S.
Speak up for our children. Be familiar with the signs of abuse and neglect. Know what to do. We can all play a role in keeping our children safe.