GPB News reported today that the law regarding mandatory reporting of child abuse is changing. As part of a criminal justice reform law signed by Governor Deal last month and effective July 1, the bill changes the definition of "child service organization personnel" to include volunteers.
Educators are already mandatory reporters, but this change in the law will now include volunteers at the schools, too. State Attorney General Sam Olens said anyone who works with children, including volunteers, should already feel obligated to report suspected child abuse, but the new law makes it a legal requirement. As someone who regularly volunteers with children, I agree that I feel a strong moral obligation to be sure the kids in my care are safe and well cared for. And as a former social worker for child welfare, I can tell you that the sooner concerns are reported, the sooner children can be made safe and receive the help they need in cases of abuse.
As educators who are already required to report suspected abuse, your role in that is not being directly effected by this change in the law. However, it may mean that this fall in the mandatory reporter portion of your pre-planning meetings, your facilitator may mention this change in the law. In that, you may be asked to notify the regular volunteers who come into your classroom.
The hope is that with this change in the law, more people will be made aware of their responsibility and that incidences of child abuse can be noticed and reported more quickly at places like after school care, churches, and civic groups and clubs so that children can live with confidence in their safety.
If you suspect a child is in danger, call your local Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS). To report suspected abuse or neglect from 5pm-8am weekdays, or holidays and weekends, dial 1-855-GA CHILD (1-855-422-4453). As always, if you believe someone is in immediate danger, contact the police by dialing 9-1-1.