Welcome to “Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect: What School Personnel Need to Do” developed in collaboration between the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF). These training materials serve as the product of an extensive partnership between the two sister agencies, DOE/DCF, and are designed to promote, develop and enhance collaboration between school, child protective, behavioral health and prevention systems and other interested systems and parties to improve the well-being of children in the State of New Jersey. In an effort to ensure statewide consistency in the implementation of child abuse reporting requirements, the DOE and DCF have developed these training materials to provide local school districts with information to assist in complying with regulatory requirements for reporting suspected abuse and neglect. The training has been divided into four modules: Policy Requirements, What to Look For, How to Report and What Happens After Reporting. Each module consists of protocols and procedures required and recommended for the identification and reporting of suspected abused and neglected children. In some cases, supplemental handouts or resources have been made available to assist you in understanding particular components of this training module. When the handouts are useful to your understanding, they will be referenced in the module. In Module # 1, you will be introduced to the policy requirements that govern the reporting of child abuse and neglect. These requirements serve as a regulatory map for you to follow in the development of local school district policies and procedures. For the purpose of this module, you will be directed to handouts one through three, which you may want to print out prior to proceeding with this module. You may find these handouts by clicking on the handouts link.
“ Child Abuse doesn’t report itself. Make the call, help a child.” … “Do what is right.”
Each school district is required to develop a policy that governs the district’s procedure for reporting potential missing, abused and neglected children. These policies shall include: -A statement indicating the importance of early detection of missing, abused or neglected children; -Provisions regarding the immediate notification to designated child welfare authorities; -Provisions regarding the notification to law enforcement authorities; -Prohibition of the requirement to confirm with another person to make a report; -Provisions for cooperating with child welfare and law enforcement authorities; -Provisions for the establishment of a school district liaison; -Provisions for designating a law enforcement liaison; -Provisions for training; -Provisions regarding due process; and -A statement prohibiting reprisal or retaliation against any person who reports suspected abuse or neglect in good faith. The district’s policy must be adopted by the district board of education. For more detail regarding the requirements of N.J.A.C. 6A:16-11, you should refer to handout #1.
In order to assist local school districts in carrying out the requirements articulated in the board approved policy, school districts are required to identify a person to act as the primary contact between the school(s) and child welfare authorities. The identification of a liaison is designed to improve communication and cooperation with local child welfare authorities to protect the children who are vulnerable to potential abuse and neglect. Additionally, the child welfare liaison shall assist in the provision of training and information to school staff, volunteers or interns. Some districts, particularly larger ones, may identify more than one liaison to fulfill this function, while others may only have one. The key is to ensure that local child welfare agencies have access to partner with local school(s) in prevention and protection efforts for its children.
As I just mentioned, the district board of education is required to develop and adopt policies and procedures to include provisions for training school district employees, volunteers and interns on the district’s policies and procedures for reporting allegations of missing, abused or neglected children. New employees, volunteers or interns must receive training as part of their orientation. For clarity, please be advised that “employees” can include contracted service providers in a school, such as speech-language specialists, child study team personnel and bus drivers. Local school districts may utilize this training to satisfy the training requirements at no cost to the district. If a local school district opts to utilize a private vendor for the provision of training, the vendor must ensure that its training is consistent with the information contained within these training materials. It is crucial to note that the reporting requirements apply to school district employees, volunteers and interns . Therefore, this training must be presented to all individuals in the district.
Reporting requirements are mandated by both the state statute and New Jersey administrative code. In accordance with New Jersey Statute, “Any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or acts of child abuse shall make an immediate report to the Division of Youth and Family Services by telephone or otherwise.” While school staff may inform the principal or other designated official that a report will be made, the staff member is not required to confirm whether a report should be made and furthermore must ensure that notification to the principal does not delay immediate notification to child welfare authorities. You may find more information regarding this requirement at N.J.A.C. 6A:16-11(a)2i and 4 in the handouts that are available in this module. It is important to note that school staff play an important role in the protection and welfare of children. Because children are in school for a large portion of the day, school staff are able to observe and interact with children on a consistent and extended daily basis. School staff continue to serve as the most frequent reporters of suspected abuse and neglect and have historically been a key partner in this effort.
This chart shows the most recent New Jersey DYFS data on the referral sources for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect. Schools comprise 19% of the reporters. In the previous year, schools represented 22% of the reporters. During calendar year 2008, there were 60,223 reports and requests made to DYFS. The primary method of reporting was telephone calls to DYFS. Not all calls resulted in child abuse investigations. As we proceed through this training, we will provide information on what we specifically mean by this and tell you about other types of services that are available.
In some cases, children that are being abused may be kept from attending school intentionally by the suspected perpetrator. As a result, the statute has created specific reporting requirements that link with absenteeism that local school districts should be aware of. In circumstances where a child has been absent from school (unexcused) for five consecutive days, the attendance officer (as identified by the school to handle matters related to student absences) shall investigate the absence in accordance with the requirements set forth at N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.8 and notify the district superintendent. Only If the district superintendent has reasonable cause to believe that the child has been abused or neglected, the district superintendent shall notify DYFS. Additional information regarding the regulatory requirements for student absences at N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.8 can be found on handout #2. As indicated in Handout # 2-A , i f a school district is notified that a child is being withdrawn by the child’s parent or guardian, the principal of the school from which the child is withdrawing shall request the name, location and expected date of enrollment of the school with which the child is will be subsequently enrolled. Five days following the expected day of enrollment, the superintendent of the district of last attendance shall contact the school district in which the child is to be subsequently enrolled to determine if the child has been enrolled in the district. If the child has not been enrolled, the attendance officer of the of the transfer district shall investigate the failure to enroll and notify the superintendent of the transfer district of the failure to enroll. ONLY IF the investigation leads the superintendent of the transfer district to have reasonable cause to believe the child has been abused or neglected, the superintendent of the transfer district shall notify DYFS. Please note: There is a distinction between “unexcused absence” and truancy under NJAC 6A:16-7.8. The next slide will walk you through a scenario as you consider circumstances where student absence would be a cause for concern.
A scenario on absenteeism…(pause) Please take a moment to consider what is happening in this scenario. Ask yourself the following questions: What may possibly be happening here? Has there been any information-sharing internally in the school between the counselor and others? What do you think should be done? Who should take action? You should consult your district’s policy for conducting an investigation into the child’s absence. If the investigation causes reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect, the district superintendent must report the incident to DYFS.
As educational agents, local school district staff, volunteers and interns have an additional reporting requirement that is not required of “everyday citizens.” Since 1985, in addition to making an immediate report to DYFS upon suspicion of abused or neglected child situations, local school districts must ensure that law enforcement authorities are notified when a call has been made to DYFS to alert them of when a potentially missing or abused (and neglected) child situation is detected. The requirement to contact law enforcement however, rests with the principal or other designated school official, not with the person making the initial report. That is, the person that makes the report to DYFS must then inform the designated school official to inform them that a call has been made so that the designated official can contact law enforcement. Local school district policies should clearly name the designated official and must establish their own internal mechanisms for ensuring that all personnel are both aware of this requirement and know who this designated person is. Because the revised “Memorandum of Agreement” between education and law enforcement officials requires that the local chief school administrator of each school designate one or more persons to serve as a liaison to the county prosecutor’s office and to the respective local law enforcement agency, it would be reasonable for school districts to consider the law enforcement liaison as the “designated school official” for informing law enforcement authorities of a potentially missing or abused child situation.
If you are not certain but have a reasonable suspicion, you are encouraged to make the call. You are protected from any liability as long as you make the call “in good faith.” For additional information about immunity and protection from civil or criminal liability, please review Handout # 3 attached to this module.
So we have discussed the following: Each district board of education is required to develop and adopt policies and procedures for school district employees, volunteers or interns to provide for the early detection of missing, abused or neglected children through notification of, reporting to and cooperation with the appropriate child welfare and law enforcement authorities. School districts must identify a liaison to both child welfare and law enforcement authorities. Student absenteeism could be an indicator of potential abuse/neglect. School districts are required to provide training to all school staff, volunteers and interns. Educational entities have a dual reporting requirement to both child welfare and law enforcement authorities. You are protected from any liability as long as you make the call “in good faith. This concludes the first module of the Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect training. You are welcome to review any portion of this module as a refresher or for additional information before proceeding to the next module, Module 2, What to look for concerning suspected child abuse and neglect.
Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect What School Personnel Need To Do Module # 1 Policy Requirements
New Jersey Department of Education N.J.A.C. 6A: 16-11(a)1 requires…
… each district board of education to develop and adopt policies and procedures for school district employees, volunteers or interns to provide for the early detection of missing, abused or neglected children through notification of, reporting to and cooperation with the appropriate law enforcement and child welfare authorities pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:36-25 and 9:6-8.10.
The School District Liaison to Child Welfare Authorities
N.J.A.C. 6A:16-11 requires that a person be identified “to act as the primary contact person between the schools in the school district and child welfare authorities with regard to general information sharing, the development of mutual training and other cooperative efforts.”
What are my obligations to report child abuse/neglect?
State law (N.J.S.A.9:6-8.10), requires “Any person having reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or acts of child abuse shall report the same immediately to the Division of Youth and Family Services by telephone or otherwise…” L. 1971, c.437, s.3; amended by L. 1987,c.341,s.4.
New Jersey Department of Education administrative code N.J.A.C. 6A:16-11(a) 2 requires, that district policies include “Provisions requiring school district employees, volunteers or interns, to immediately notify designated child welfare authorities of incidents of alleged missing, abused and neglected children.”
Also, the “confirmation” of another person is not required: “Under no condition shall the school district’s policy require confirmation by another person to report the suspected missing, abused or neglected child situation.” pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-11 (a) 4.
School includes: on school grounds, on school buses, in the school or at school-sponsored functions pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-1.3.
N.J.S.A. 18A: 36-25.2(1) requires that if the district superintendent has reasonable cause to believe that a child who has an unexcused absence from school for five consecutive school days has been abused or neglected, the district superintendent shall notify the DYFS.
Any investigation of a child whose parent or guardian has withdrawn them from school and has not enrolled them in another school within five days which-based upon the investigation- is a suspected abuse or neglect situation shall be reported to DYFS. (N.J.S.A. 18A: 36-25.2(b))
A student has confided with a school counselor that her parents have separated…that the father has been threatening to take her with him…that she is afraid of this because he has said he will leave the State with her…Now, a few days later, this student who has had excellent attendance, is suddenly absent…a call to the home is unanswered.
What may possibly be happening here? Has there been any information sharing internally in the school between the counselor and others? What do you think should be done? Who should take action?
N.J.S.A. 18A: 36-25: All school districts shall be required to establish policies designed to provide for the early detection of missing and abused children. These policies shall include provisions for the notification of the appropriate law enforcement and child welfare authorities when a potential missing or abused child situation is detected.
What if I am not sure if a child has been abused?
Err on the side of caution! Call the Hotline and they will help determine if the situation is considered child abuse or neglect.
By law (N.J.S.A.9:6-8.13), you are protected from civil or criminal liability, discharge from employment, and discrimination, if you make a report “in good faith.”
N.J.A.C. 6A: 16-11 (a) 10. also includes this requirement for school district policies: “A statement that prohibits reprisal or retaliation against any person who, in good faith, reports or causes a report to be made of a potential missing, abused or neglected child situation pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.13.”
Each district board of education is required to develop and adopt policies and procedures for school district employees, volunteers or interns to provide for the early detection of missing, abused or neglected children through notification of, reporting to and cooperation with the appropriate child welfare and law enforcement authorities.
School districts must identify a liaison to both child welfare and law enforcement authorities. (SCHOOL PRINCIPAL)
Student absenteeism could be an indicator of potential abuse/neglect.
School districts are required to provide training to all school staff, volunteers and interns.
Educational entities have a dual reporting requirement to both child welfare and law enforcement authorities.
You are protected from any liability as long as you make the call “in good faith.”