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Home / Designing a Protocol / Guidelines for handling disclosures

Guidelines for handling disclosures

As we consider how to report abuse and neglect situations, it is important to review how information becomes known to educators: 

  • Do not let a child swear you to secrecy before telling you something. You may need to report. Let the child know that there are some things you cannot keep secret if you believe they are harmful to them.
  • If a child asks to speak with you, try to find a neutral setting where you can have quiet and few interruptions.
  • Do not lead the child in telling their story. Just listen, letting them explain in their own words. Do not pressure them for a lot of additional detail. Remember, educators are not investigators. Forensic interviewing should be left to the professionals at DCF. Trying to get additional detail may interfere with that process.
  • Respond calmly and matter-of-factly. Even if the story that the child tells you is difficult to hear, it is important not to register disgust or alarm.
  • Do not make judgmental or disparaging comments about the abuser. It is often someone the child loves or with whom they are close.
  • Do not make promises to the child that things will get better. In reality, things may get worse before they get better, but conveying this to the child may make them more anxious.
  • Do not confront the abuser. This may cause more harm to the child.
  • Ask the child if they feel unsafe going home. If they do, and you feel the child is in immediate danger, this should be considered an emergency report and handled immediately by contacting DCF and possibly the local police department (consult with the DCF intake worker). Do not take the child home with you! Provisions should be made by an appropriate agency.
  • Respect the child’s confidence and limit the number of people with whom you share the information. You may tell the Child Protection Team, but other staff need not know.
  • Explain to the child that you must tell someone else to get some help. Try to let the child know that someone else also will need to talk with them and explain why.

Children who report may be anxious or frightened and need gentle reassurance. They may continue to need encouragement and support at the time, as well as after the report has been made.


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