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Home / Additional Considerations / Procedures in Child Abuse and Neglect

Procedures in Child Abuse and Neglect Situations 

The actual procedure for reporting should be straightforward and easy to follow. It might be worded in your protocol as follows: 

Any educator or support staff member who has reasonable cause to believe that a child is being physically abused, neglected, sexually abused, emotionally injured, sexually exploited or the victim of human trafficking is mandated to report this suspicion. No person so required to report shall be liable in any civil or criminal action by reason of such report if made in good faith.

The staff member who suspects child maltreatment (henceforth referred to as the reporter) should immediately notify the [designated person] who will convene the CPT, which shall meet as soon as possible. The reporter will present their suspicions to the CPT and provide the team with any documentation that may be available. If the CPT deems this a reportable situation, the [designated individual] representing the CPT and the reporter will immediately telephone the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to report and file a 51A report.

If the CPT cannot be convened in a timely manner, and the reporter has determined that there is reasonable cause to suspect child maltreatment or that the child is at immediate risk, the law requires that a mandated reporter shall immediately report such condition to DCF by oral communication and by making a written report within forty-eight hours.

It may also happen that an educator will consult with the CPT, and the team does not feel that the case should be reported to DCF. Does the reporter have any recourse? The law states that all educators are mandated to report. A teacher who has reasonable cause to believe that the alleged abuse or neglect occurred, even if the CPT decides not to report, must act upon their suspicions.

In this case, the educator, as a mandated reporter, is legally obligated to call DCF and make the report. Again, the purpose of the CPT is to be a consultative and supportive body rather than a limiting one. The CPT cannot prevent a teacher from reporting. Thus you might include in the protocol a statement such as this:

The fact that the CPT does not advise reporting a situation to DCF does not relieve the educator from their responsibility to report directly to DCF if they continue to have reasonable cause to believe that the suspected abuse or neglect did occur. The (name of school) will not discharge or in any manner retaliate or discriminate against any person who, in good faith, submits a report of child abuse or neglect.

A comment should be made about documentation. Documentation refers to facts gathered and observations that the educator may have made regarding the child. It is not necessary to establish “certainty” in order to report. The law states that it is only necessary to have “reasonable cause to believe.” Documenting what one has observed and heard from the child and parents is very helpful. But again, the educator must realize that they are not the investigator. Keep in mind that it is neither appropriate nor necessary to question the child in detail about the alleged abuse or neglect, even if the child has told you about it. This is not only unfair to the child, who may be questioned again by DCF and possibly by other professionals, but you may also run the risk of compromising future interventions if it is determined that your questioning of the child constitutes “leading” or “biasing” a witness. If a child discloses alleged abuse or neglect, just let them talk and explain things in their own terms. Remain sympathetic but ask as few questions as possible. If you are in doubt as to whether the situation being described by the child is reportable, call DCF.


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