Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and NeglectPROTECTING CHILDREN, YOUR AGENCY, AND YOURSELF JENNIFER L. DRITT, LCSW (LA) FLORIDA COUNCIL AGAINST SEXUAL VIOLENCE JANUARY 10, 2013
Abuse Defined39.01 (2), F.S. “Abuse” means any willful act or threatened act that results in any physical, mental, or sexual abuse, injury, or harm that causes or is likely to cause the child’s physical, mental, or emotional health to be significantly impaired. Abuse of a child includes acts or omissions. Corporal discipline of a child by a parent or legal custodian for disciplinary purposes does not in itself constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child.
Child Abuse and Neglect DefinedPhysical or mental injuryExcessive corporal punishmentSexual offensesFailure to supply food, clothing, shelter, education, medical careAbandonmentEncouraging delinquencySubstantial risk of abuse or neglect
Physical Injury (Physical Abuse)DeathPermanent or temporary disfigurementImpairment of any bodily organ or function
Mental InjuryInjury to intellectual, emotional, psychological capacity or functioningExistence of the impairment must be supported by expert opinion (in court)
NeglectFailure to provide food, clothing, shelter, education, or medical care, though financially capable of doing so
AbandonmentWillfully deserting or surrendering a childAnd failing to make adequate arrangements for the child’s needs
Sexual AbuseIf defined as a sexual offense according to the criminal laws of Florida;It’s not necessary to know Florida Statutes regarding sex offenses in order to determine whether or not something must be reported.
JuvenilesJuvenile sexual offender behavior ranges from noncontact sexual behavior such as making obscene phone calls, exhibitionism, voyeurism, and the showing or taking of lewd photographs to varying degrees of direct sexual contact, such as frottage, fondling, digital penetration, rape, fellatio, sodomy, and various other sexually aggressive acts.
Alleged Juvenile Sex Offender39.01 (7), Florida Statutes(a) A child 12 years of age or younger who is alleged tohave committed a violation of chapter 794, chapter 796,chapter 800, s. 827.071, or s. 847.0133; or(b) A child who is alleged to have committed any violationof law or delinquent act involving juvenile sexual abuse.“Juvenile sexual abuse” means any sexual behavior whichoccurs without consent, without equality, or as a result ofcoercion. For purposes of this paragraph, the followingdefinitions apply:
Definitions1. “Coercion” means the exploitation of authority or the use of bribes, threats of force, or intimidation to gain cooperation or compliance.2. “Equality” means two participants operating with the same level of power in a relationship, neither being controlled nor coerced by the other.3. “Consent” means an agreement, including all of the following:
Consenta. Understanding what is proposed based on age, maturity,developmental level, functioning, and experience.b. Knowledge of societal standards for what is beingproposed.c. Awareness of potential consequences and alternatives.d. Assumption that agreement or disagreement will beaccepted equally.e. Voluntary decision.f. Mental competence.
Child on Child Sexual Abuse (COCSA) and Children with Sexual Behavior Problems (SBP) The number of COCSA alleged victims and verified victims remained relatively stable between fiscal year (FY) 2003-04 and FY 2006-07. In FY 2003-04, the total number of alleged victims was 4,981 and in FY 2006-07 this figure was 4,566. There were a total of 799 verified victims in FY 2003-04 and 710 in FY 2006-07. When assessing the trends in reporting COCSA, calls to the Florida Abuse Hotline have moderately decreased since FY 2005-06 (3,488 COCSA-related calls in FY 2005-06; 3,261 calls in FY 2008-09).
COCSA/SBPThe number of alleged children with SBP consistently remains below the number of alleged COCSA victims (3,961 and 4,383 in FY 2008-09, respectively).COCSA alleged victims represented about 8 to 11 percent of all Abuse Report victims (these include those abused, neglected, threatened or harmed) over the last five years. Further, the percent of all COCSA referrals in which a victim was verified remained relatively constant between FY 2003-04 and FY 2006-07 (roughly 15-16% of all COCSA referrals).
Signs of Sexual AbuseConsider the possibility of sexual abuse when thechild:Has difficulty walking or sittingSuddenly refuses to change for gym or to participatein physical activitiesReports nightmares or bedwettingExperiences a sudden change in appetite
Signs of Sexual AbuseConsider the possibility of sexual abuse when thechild or youth:Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusualsexual knowledge or behaviorBecomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease,particularly if under age 14Runs awayReports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult
Identifying PredatorsThe establishment and eventual betrayal of trust is central to the child molester’s interactions with children.Grooming is a process.Predators often target children and youth with obvious vulnerabilities: a child who feels unloved and unpopular, has family problems, spends time alone and unsupervised, lacks confidence and self- esteem, is isolated from peers
Identifying PredatorsMay use a combination of forced teaming and charm;Offer to play games, give rides, buy treats, gifts, and other tokens of friendship;Offer drugs and alcohol to older children or teenagers;Always offer a sympathetic, understanding ear (Your parents and friends don’t understand you? Well, I do.)
Identifying PredatorsSuccessful predators find and fill a void in the child’s life;Introduce secrecy into the relationship;Introduce threats after secrecy;Forge an emotional bond that leads to physical contact;
Signs of Sexual AbuseConsider the possibility of sexual abuse when theparent or other adult:Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits thechilds contact with other children, especially of theopposite sexExhibits jealousy when youth would rather spendtime with othersIs secretive and isolatedIs jealous or controlling with family members
Four Preconditions to Child Sexual AbuseThere must be an offender with the motivation to sexually abuse;The molester must overcome internal inhibitions against abusing;The molester must overcome external barriers to abusing; andThe molester must overcome resistance by the child. (Finkelhor, 1984)
Reporting prior to 10/1/2012 All citizens were required to report suspected abuse or neglect committed by someone responsible for the child’s welfare; “Mandatory reporters” – meant to refer to certain occupations that must provide his/her name when making a report – led many to believe that only people with those occupations or in those professions were required to report child abuse; Reports of child abuse committed by someone not responsible for a child’s welfare were not required; and Consequences for failure to report were minimal.
Reporting after 10/1/2012 Any person who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected must make a report immediately to the Department of Children and Families via the central abuse hotline, which consists of the statewide toll-free telephone number, a web-based reporting option, web-based chat, and a fax reporting option. It is very clear that ALL persons are mandatory reporters, though only certain professions and/or occupations must provide their names when making a report. Consequences for failing to report are substantial: 3 rd degree felony (term of imprisonment not exceeding 5 years, $5,000 fine). Consequences are even greater if the person charged is a habitual felony offender.
What Hasn’t Changed?All reports are confidential. Access to the reports is limited by specific criteria in Chapter 39 and 415 of the Florida Statutes.39.203 Immunity from liability in cases of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.— (1)(a) Any person, official, or institution participating in good faith in any act authorized or required by this chapter, or reporting in good faith any instance of child abuse, abandonment, or neglect to the department or any law enforcement agency, shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability which might otherwise result by reason of such action.
Must Provide His/Her Name When Making a Report Physician Other school official or Osteopathic Physician personnel Medical Examiner Social Worker Chiropractic Physician Childcare Worker Nurse Foster Care Worker Hospital personnel engaged Residential worker in the admission, Institutional worker examination, care, or Practitioner who relies solely treatment of persons on spiritual means for Health or Mental Health healing Professionals Law Enforcement Officer School Teacher Judge
When to ReportLaw requires report to be made when there is “reasonable cause to suspect”Does not require the reporter to have conclusive proofDoes not require proof beyond a reasonable doubtInformation must be such that a reasonable person would rely upon it, including hearsay
Nuts and Bolts of ReportingKnowledge or reasonable cause to suspectYou must report (can’t simply cause a report to be made)
ConfidentialityDCF must keep the identity of the reporter confidentialMay share the name of the reporter with law enforcement to further the investigation.
Immunity from LiabilityReporters are immune from civil and criminal liability for reporting child abuse and neglect in good faithLaw presumes that child abuse and neglect reports are made in good faith
Nuts and Bolts of Reporting: responding to the child DOsDO immediately tell the child you believe him/her.DO tell the child that s/he was right to tell you andwas very brave to do so.DO use the childs language or vocabulary.DO acknowledge that it is difficult to talk about suchthings.DO tell the child that this has happened to otherchildren and that he/she is not the only one.
Nuts and Bolts of Reporting: responding to the childDO tell them that they are not responsible for what happened and did not deserve it.DO tell them that sometimes adults do things that are not OK (avoid saying that the offender is "sick").DO everything you can to support, comfort and reassure the child.DO ensure that the child feels safe following disclosure. You might need to stay physically close to give an extra sense of physical security - the offender may have used threats.
Nuts and Bolts of Reporting: responding to the child DON’TsDONT make promises you cant keep - especially ifthe child asks you to keep it a secret.DONT panic or show that you are shocked. It isimportant to remain calm and in control of yourfeelings.DONT give the impression that you might blamethe child. e.g. Dont ask: "why did you let him?", "whatwere you doing there anyway?" or "why didnt you tellme before?".
Nuts and Bolts of Reporting: responding to the child DON’TsDONT ask intrusive questions. Listen but dont pry.Respect the childs need for privacy.DONT be over protective.
Nuts and Bolts of Reporting: making the reportAs soon as possibleDo not assume the role of CPS investigatorDo not wait for proofProviding name is preferredFollow organizational procedures, but don’t forget thatYou are individually required to report
Where and How to Report: http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/abuse-hotline/howtoreport Florida Abuse Hotline:Telephone: 1-800-962-2873TDD (Telephone Device for the Deaf): 1-800-453-5145FAX: To make a report via fax, send a detailed writtenreport with your name and contact telephone or FAX contactinformation using the Florida Abuse Hotline’s fax reportingform to:1-800-914-0004.Web Reporting should not be used for situationsrequiring immediate attention
Nuts and Bolts of Reporting: information sharing Child’s name Age, race and gender of all adults and children involved Address (directions, especially in rural areas) Present location (again, directions) Names and ages of siblings Parents names and addresses Reasons for concerns Relationship of alleged perpetrator to the child Any known history of violence in the home or other risks to investigator(s)
Nuts and Bolts of Reporting: documentationDocument the basis for your concern, including the physical and behavioral signsDocument the child’s statements to you, use the child’s wordsRecord the child’s demeanorRecord the date and agency individual to whom you spoke
Nuts and Bolts of Reporting: dealing with parentsIt is best not to contact parents about your suspicions before making a reportNever accuse a parent of wrongdoingIf necessary, explain that you are legally responsible to report
Nuts and Bolts of Reporting: follow-upTelephone reporters will always be told prior to concluding the conversation, whether the information provided has been accepted as a report.Other than information about whether or not the report has been accepted, reporters are not entitled to other information regarding DCF’s response to the report.Even if report isn’t accepted for investigation, DCF will keep a record of the report.
Final Thoughts about Mandatory ReportingMust report if you have “reasonable cause to suspect”Do not worry about retaliationPresumption that reports are made in good faithDCF and law enforcement must keep your identity confidential
Protecting Your OrganizationPolicies and Procedures: Training: engaging with youth: what are the appropriate boundaries; Training: How and why working with adolescents is challenging for everyone, but especially for younger adults; Adopting policies intended to prevent abuse – creating external barriers and helping children resist; Reporting abuse; Documenting information received and action taken; Regular, consistent training and review of policies and procedures, not just when new staff are hired;
Policy ExamplesTwo adults involved in/leading all activities with youth;No one-on-one contact, unless clinically necessary (therapy, etc.), and then only when there are other adults in close proximity;Adults respect the physical privacy of youth and are appropriately private, themselves.No secret or separate groups apart from those sanctioned by the organization;Appropriate attire for all activities;
Helping Children ResistBoy Scouts of American calls this the “Three R’s of Youth Protection: Child needs to RECOGNIZE situations that place him/her at risk of being molested, how child molesters operate, and that anyone can be a molester; The child needs to know that if s/he RESISTS, most child molesters will leave her/him alone; and If the child REPORTS attempted or actual molestations, s/he will help protect her/himself as well as other children from further abuse, and will not be blamed for what occurred. (BSA, Youth Protection Guidelines: Training for Volunteer Leaders and Parents) http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pub/PreventingChildAbuse.html - Preventing Child Abuse in Youth- serving Organizations: Getting Started on Policies and Procedures
Florida Council Against Sexual Violence 1820 E. Park Avenue Suite 100 Tallahassee, Florida 32301 (850) 297-2000 (888) 956-7273 www.fcasv.org