Earlier this summer, we reported through GPB News and blogged about the new changes to laws about mandatory reporting on child safety concerns. Effective July 1, 2012, the new adjustments to the law includes volunteers in the group required to report if child neglect or abuse is suspected.
As school is starting around the state, that means after school programs and student mentoring is gearing up, too. These programs are great in that they offer increased support for student wellness, that includes their very safety. Each organization is responsible for informing and training its volunteers on whatever reporting mechanism they decide works best. Typically, after school programs and schools have a reporting procedure and volunteers can be educated on how to follow through those steps. Ultimately, the responsibility to report lies with the person who suspects or witnesses the abuse.
I recently participated in structuring the protocol for reporting child abuse with a volunteer organization. I wanted to share some items with you in the event that you are creating or recreating your policy in light of the new law.
1. Include in your reporting structure a written documentation of the account by the witness.
2. Include date, time, and as much specific detail as you can about what your concerns are.
3. Specify whether the report is based on an assumption, witnessed event(s), or child testimony.
4. If the written report takes more than one page, then note that on each page (“page one of four” for example).
5. Include a section on the note form that reminds the reporter that their next step is notifying authorities and list the number they should call.
6. Require reporters to sign and date the document.
These steps should help in reporting accurately to the authorities the issues that were observed.
If you suspect a child is in eminent danger, call your local Department of Family and Children Services (DFACS). To report suspected child abuse, call 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.