Youth Services Law

Showing 29 posts from 2014.

NAEYC Presentation

I will be in Dallas this week, speaking at the NAEYC conference on Thursday morning. My topic is "Mandatory Reporting: Who, What, Why, When & Where." If you are there, track me down, say hello, and join us for lunch.

Mandated Reporting: What to Report

The next question is knowing what to report to the authorities. There may be a difference between what you MUST report, and what you SHOULD report. North Carolina law, for example, requires reports only of abuse by a "parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker." Yet, it clearly would be best practices for a child care institution to report suspected abuse by a staff member or third party as well as parents. Georgia, by contrast, requires reports of physical injury or neglect by a parent or caretaker, and sexual abuse or exploitation by anyone.

Another question is the type of abuse that is covered. North Carolina lists physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and allowing or encouraging serious delinquent acts. Georgia, by contrast, lists only physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse.

Some states are considering whether to include exposure to domestic violence as a type of abuse, but to my knowledge, none has yet included it. If you learn of domestic violence, nevertheless, you should consider reporting it, as it is a strong indicator of possible abuse.

Mandated Reporting: When to Report

The final and most difficult question in mandated reporting is knowing when to report suspicions.  North Carolina law requires a report when the mandated reporter has "cause to suspect" abuse, while Georgia requires "reasonable cause to believe" that a child has been abused.  But what is "cause"?

There are only two definite red flags for abuse -- a third party witness or disclosure from the child.  Everything else is what I call "pink flags," because the signs are ambiguous and always could have an innocent cause.  Nevertheless, they are important to know, because enough of the signs can add up to a requirement to report.

Continue reading Mandated Reporting: When to Report ›

Mandated Reporting: Where to Report

The next question about mandated reporting is to whom we should report.  North Carolina, for example, requires a report to county social services department.  Directors of child care facilities must report directly to the State Bureau of Investigation. Georgia also requires a report to social services or law enforcement, but allows a staff member to report to a supervisor, who then must make the report.  This practice of allowing in-house reports has received a lot of criticism, but it is an excellent system.

Continue reading Mandated Reporting: Where to Report ›

Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse: Who Must Report

I am speaking on a panel at the Atlanta Boy Scouts' Youth Protection Seminar on Wednesday, and I decided this week to post a series looking at mandated reporting of child abuse.   If any of you attend the seminar, be sure to track me down to say hello.

Who Must Report

The first question in mandated reporter statutes is who must report suspected abuse.  The two states where I am licensed, Georgia and North Carolina, are at opposite ends of the spectrum on that question.  Georgia lists specific occupations, O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5, while North Carolina requires "any person or institution" to report.  N.C.G.S. § 7B-301.   Most states are on Georgia's end of the spectrum.

Best Practices and Training 

Who must report, however, is not the same as who should report abuse.  The best practice is for all organizations that serve young people to require staff and volunteers to report suspected abuse.  That policy, of course, carries with it the obligation to train staff members to recognize abuse. Fortunately, many state agencies offer such training.

Check first with your licensing organization to see what training it offers.  Next, look at online training, such as the Georgia Governor's Office of the Child Advocate, the California Mandated Reporter Project and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.  Finally, talk to organizations with a training curriculum, such as the Safe Sanctuaries program of the United Methodist Church.

Young Children Have Critical Thinking Skills

Young Children Have Critical Thinking SkillsA fascinating study of four- and five-year-olds found that children take a great leap in critical thinking between those two ages. According to the description at Scientific Blogging:

The researchers showed their subjects short videos of two adults talking about familiar animals. The speakers would either:

A. Make true statements about the animal in a hesitant voice

"Hmm, I guess whales live in the water?"

B. Make false statements about the animal in a confident voice

"Oh, I know! Whales live in the ground!"

The kids were then shown videos of the same two adults speaking about strange animals. The previously confident speaker would state facts with confidence, and the previously hesitant speaker remained hesitant while stating different facts. The participants were then asked whom they believed.

In children closer to the age of four, it was a 50/50 split: they were as likely to believe the confident liar as the hesitant truth-teller. But as they neared the age of five, participants were more likely to believe the previously accurate but hesitant individual, suggesting a year can make a big difference in terms of a child's evolution in the critical consumption of information.

This is an interesting study, not only for people who teach children, but for those who deal with child witnesses. A child's ability to think critically is a very important indicator of their ability to testify truthfully and to resist suggestive questions from investigators. Be sure that your expert witnesses are aware of this study and its ramifications for forensic work.

Rotherham Child Abuse Investigation Produces Much Outrage, Little Change

Posted In Child Abuse

Neglected lonely childAs the Rotherham child abuse scandal is overtaken by news of other atrocities, it appears that nothing much has changed for the victims and their families.  Yes, many people expressed a lot of outrage, a committee of Parliament asked a lot of questions, and four people have resigned.  Yet it appears that none of the perpetrators has been arrested, and few of the survivors have received any help.  In fact, some of them have reported more threats from their abusers.

The fact that neither the government nor the community is helping these survivors is simply indefensible.  Political conservatives (with whom I usually agree) need to do much, much more than blame multiculturalism and move along.  If we truly believe that the community can help as much as the government, then we need to raise money for counseling and trauma services.  Political progressives need to pressure the police to do their jobs even at this late date, and then help the community find money to provide services to the survivors.   Simply using this scandal as an exhibit for short-term political points is not how honorable people behave.

Resilience in Children Requires Unsupervised Time

There's a great article on science20.com about more problems that we are causing our children by constantly hovering. They are not learning how to be independent, developing self-control, or learning how to judge and overcome risks. Nor are they learning the resilience that everyone recognizes as essential in children. The risk of harm from strangers is much, much lower than the risk of impaired psychological development.

Presentation about Developing Resilience

ACAI spoke last week at the ACA Southeast Conference in Savannah, and had a wonderful time meeting everyone and learning from the workshops.  It was also a blast presenting with my sister, who explained how to reassure parents about the importance of allowing children to take age-appropriate risks so that they can develop independence and resilience.  You can find copies of our presentation and hand-outs here.

Disaster Response "Report Card" May Have a Point . . . Somewhere

Posted In Day Care

Day care is in the news again after Save the Children issued its 2014 National Report Card on Protecting Children in Disasters.  You can get the report here, but only after "signing" a pledge by providing your name and address.  The report deals with a very real need, but it is filled with logical inconsistencies and hyperbole.

It claims, for example, that Georgia has inadequate disaster response because it does not require day care centers to "have a written plan for evacuating and safely moving children to an alternate site."  In fact, Georgia's Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) does require all providers to have a "written plan for handling emergencies, including but not limited to severe weather, loss of electrical power or water . . . which may occur at the center."  I cannot see anything missing in that requirement, unless the organization expects Georgia to specifically require safe evacuation procedures. In my experience, any sufficient plan would automatically include evacuation procedures, and DECAL has required all of my clients to include that in their emergency plans.  But, of course, a common-sense reading of Georgia's rules would not lend itself to the hyperbole of "21 states fail to meet minimum standards!"

Continue reading Disaster Response "Report Card" May Have a Point . . . Somewhere ›

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