Welcome to Module III of Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect: What School Personnel Need to Do regarding how to report potential child abuse and neglect. Before proceeding with this module, you may want to consider revisiting the policy requirements summary at the close of Module I and the what to look for summary at the close of Module II as a refresher. In Module III, we will take you through the steps of making an actual report of suspected child abuse and neglect. This module does not require any supplemental handouts to follow along.
Now that we know when to call, there are actually two telephone contacts to be made. Local school districts are required to ensure that their policies reflect a requirement to contact both child welfare and law enforcement agencies. The toll-free telephone number to call when reporting suspected child abuse and neglect to child welfare authorities is 1-877-NJ ABUSE or 1-877-652-2873. The next slide goes into more detail about the requirement for reporting to law enforcement. Remember, reporting is inclusive of all environments ; on school grounds, on school buses, in the school or at school–sponsored functions and therefore must be called in whenever and wherever it is suspected.
As we indicated in Module I, local school districts are required to identify a contact person between the school and law enforcement with whom a school district staff member, volunteer or intern may go to inform them that a call has been made to DYFS. It is important to know who the designated person is in your school district. The designee is required to make contact with law enforcement, NOT the person that made the report to the DYFS Hotline. It is therefore advisable that there be one designee assigned for this role. Depending upon your district/county, the call to law enforcement may be either to a local police department or County Prosecutor’s Office. If you are in a receiving school district, the call is made to the established law enforcement agency within proximity to the school building, not to each locality in which the students live. Each local law enforcement agency will have its own procedure for fielding such calls. DYFS however, has a standard procedure for receiving calls which we will walk you through over the next few slides.
Throughout this presentation, we have been generically referring to the call center as “the Hotline.” However, within the Department of Children and Families, the official name for the hotline is the State Central Registry (or SCR).
In preparation for making a call to the Hotline, you should know that you will be asked to supply all known information on the suspected child abuse/neglect situation. If there is additional information that another staff member can provide when making the call that may prove useful to DYFS in considering the report, you may do so. We will walk you through a potential scenario to further clarify how you can obtain assistance when making a report of suspected abuse and neglect.
Here is an example of how a school principal assisted a school bus driver in supplying information to the Hotline. One of the school bus drivers reports to the principal that he has overheard a child talking about being hit by his mother. He knows he needs to report this but is unsure of the child’s name and home address. Also, he knows he would feel more confident in having the principal assist him. He tells the principal exactly what he heard that morning on the bus. After they both confirm the identity of the child, the principal places the call to the hotline, first introducing herself and then the bus driver. In this instance, the necessary supplemental information is successfully conveyed.
The first thing that the screener will do when answering your call is ask you for your name. While there is no requirement to provide your name when reporting to the hotline, doing so allows for DYFS to provide follow-up information that may be germane to the provision of support to the student in the school building. Additionally, the ability to follow-up with DYFS keeps the lines of communication open and contributes to the overall well being of the child. If you choose to report anonymously, the screener will be unable to provide follow-up information regarding the status of the report. Just remember, whether you report anonymously or not, you must still inform the identified school designee to law enforcement that a call has been made so that he/she can follow the appropriate protocol for contacting law enforcement authorities. After obtaining your name and other basic information, the screener will guide you through the reporting process by asking a few standard questions. If at any time, you become uncomfortable with the response of the screener, you have the right to ask to speak with a supervisor at the Hotline.
You will be asked to respond to questions surrounding the “who,” “what,” and “where” of the situation. More specifically, you will be asked for basic information related to the child and the alleged perpetrator, the type of abuse suspected, a description of the incident that caused concern, the status of the child’s condition and where the incident took place. While it will be most useful to provide as much information as possible, the timing of your call should not be impacted by the absence of specific information. That is, you should not wait until you’ve collected all of the information to call the Hotline. If you believe you have additional information relative to the potential child abuse situation, you can contact the Hotline or, where applicable, place a follow-up call to the investigator.
The screener will also ask you information about the timing and frequency of the suspected incident of abuse or neglect and the urgency for involvement. Additional questions about the environment may be posed by the screener to determine whether an investigator would be in potential danger (for example, are there dangerous pets present? Does the accused perpetrator have a weapon?); The call screener may also ask about the child’s medical condition and the child’s daily schedule (including dismissal times) to better assess the situation. For informational purposes, you should know that DYFS does have a right to remove the child from the school building and may request access to the child’s records which is permissible under FERPA, the Family Education Rights Privacy Act..
To facilitate a timely response rate and to protect the welfare of the child, you are encouraged to call the Hotline without delay. Failure to call immediately or waiting to call from home or any other remote location could allow a further incident to occur or could cause the child to be seen in a less neutral setting (i.e.: at home where the trouble may lie and/or in the presence of the abuser). Making the call without delay enables the investigator to arrange to speak with the child at the school or on school grounds. Additionally, in order to ensure that the protocol for contacting law enforcement is followed, school staff, volunteers and interns must inform the law enforcement designee that the call has been made to the Hotline. If the call is delayed by calling from home or other venue, the procedure for contacting law enforcement authorities can be compromised.
As long as you make a report “in good faith,” meaning that you have a reasonable belief that a child may be potentially abused or neglected, you are protected from civil or criminal liability. You should always err on the side of caution and allow the screener to determine whether intervention is necessary.
Educators have an additional responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of the children they serve…… Failing to report is simply not an option.
This concludes the third 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 final module, Module 4 regarding the actual investigation.
“ Child Abuse doesn’t report itself. Make the call, help a child.” … “Do what is right.”
Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect What School Personnel Need To Do Module III How to report… http://www.state.nj.us/education/students/safety/socservices/abuse/training/
“ Dual reporting”… (notification to law enforcement authorities)
Requires that the school district identify a person to make a contact to law enforcement.
This need not be the person who contacted the DYFS hotline. More specifically…
School districts shall require “the principal or other designated school official(s) to notify law enforcement authorities of potentially missing, abused or neglected child situations” pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-11 (a) 3 .
It is recommended that it be one designated person, for the purpose of consistency and accountability.
One of the school bus drivers reports to the principal that he has overheard a child talking about being hit by his mother. He knows he needs to report this but is unsure of the child’s name and home address. Also, he knows he would feel more confident in having the principal assist him. He tells the principal exactly what he heard that morning on the bus. After they both confirm the identity of the child, the principal places the call to the hotline, first introducing herself and then the bus driver. The information is successfully conveyed.
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 should be investigated as potential 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.”
Knowingly not reporting abuse or neglect can have devastating consequences on a child and legal consequences on YOU!
“ Any person knowingly violating the provisions of this act including the failure to report an act of child abuse having reasonable cause to believe that an act of child abuse has been committed, is a disorderly person.”
Any person who knowingly fails to report suspected abuse according to the law is a disorderly person and subject to a fine up to $1,000 or up to 6 months in prison, or both!