Friday, June 1, 2018

Mandated Reporters - The phone call that can destroy your life

Every CPS intervention begins with a phone call

I was recently reported to CPS by a social worker at my daughters school.  According to this social worker, she was a mandated reporter, she had to make the report by law and it was nothing personal.

Of course, I took it personally because it led to a CPS investigation of my family but fortunately this investigation ended quickly and with no finding of abuse or neglect.  The whole thing was ridiculous really, with the only thing being accomplished was a spike in the stress levels of every member of my family and the damage to my relationship with the school and this social worker. 

Most normal people would at this point ask the question, "If there wasn't any abuse or neglect, then why would you be reported?"  However, this is a question based totally on ignorance and as I will demonstrate, it happens more often than not.  In fact, in 2015 in the United States, there were approximately 4 Million reports of child abuse made regarding 7.2 million children and out of all the investigations that were preformed, there were 683,000 children in the USA that were confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect.  That's a whopping 9.5% of of the children reported to the child abuse hotline.   


The Mandated Reporter

In case you don't know, a mandated reporter is a professional who has close contact with children such as a teacher, doctor or counselor and who is required by law to report any reasonable suspicions or allegations of child abuse or neglect.  Because the phrase "reasonable suspicion" is such an ambiguous term, we must understand it's meaning to be "every little scrape on the knee" or "every little bump on the head," because God forbid, anything happens in the future, they could loose their licenses or worse.  In some states, they can be criminally prosecuted for not making a report, if something more terrible were to happen in the future, although that very rarely happens and is usually the result of a witch hunt for somebody to blame for a terrible tragedy. 

Although anybody can report an allegation of child abuse, most of the calls CPS gets are from the mandated reporters who are supposed to be trained to spot signs of abuse. 

The problem caused by Mandated Reporters

This  leads me to an article that inspired this rant, that was just published from Pennsylvania.

The headline reads...
Tips about suspected child abuse topped 47,000 in 2017
Of course the untrained mind will automatically assume, "47,000 abused children in Pennsylvania?  Oh my God, they're all gonna die!"

But lets take a look at this article.
The number of children across the state killed from abuse dropped from 46 in 2016 to 40 in 2017. But both the number of reports of suspected child abuse and the number of cases of abuse substantiated by caseworkers continued to climb. 
Child protective services received a total of 47,485 allegations of child abuse in 2017 and caseworkers substantiated that 4,836 of those cases seemed to qualify as child abuse, according to data released Wednesday by the Department of Human Services. 
The actual number is 47,485 child abuse reports were made in 2017 resulting in 4,836 substantiated cases of abuse.  That means, if you do the math that approx. 90% of child abuse reports in Pennsylvania don't result in any findings of abuse or neglect, yet the headline sells us on the much bigger number because it's much more emotionally captivating and attention grabbing.

Why so many false reports?

Jerry Sandusky
Jerry Sandusky
So why so many reports that result in no finding of abuse?  Well one reason is that the state is still in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky Penn State sex abuse scandal which was a story that was covered from every possible angel, over and over again, generating hundreds of news articles and videos that was seen by pretty much everybody in the state.  People were all horrified at the prospect of anything like this happening to children in their own community.  In fact, this case was such a media circus that it caused people to see child abuse everywhere.

The Sandusky case has caused a spike in the number of calls to the hotline.  Therefore what CPS likes to refer to it as Child Abuse Awareness is at an all time high.  If you translate that further, it means that everybody and their brother are making child abuse reports to CPS.  CPS in turn calls this a good thing because it means people are looking out for the kids.  Right?

I disagree.  I believe that too many phony reports puts kids at risk and quite often innocent families in danger of being torn apart by CPS.  On top of that, the kids who really are being abused aren't getting the the help they so desperately need because the workers are too busy wasting their time on the false reports.  Bringing it back home, what's really sad about this whole thing was that while CPS was focused on me and my family, some other kid in the community was probably really being abused or neglected right at that very moment and here was this concerned Child Protective Worker, wasting everybody's time.

Clogging the system

The article goes on to to say...
The flood of new tips had overwhelmed the state’s child abuse hotline in 2014, when state officials estimated that 4 in 10 callers never got to an operator. 
Which goes to show you that the system isn't working.  The false reports are clogging the system and children are falling thorough the cracks because of it.  Although Pennsylvania may have improved in their ability to handle a skyrocketing number of phony child abuse reports as the article suggests, they are not alone. 

In the State of Maine for example, they're experiencing so many calls that they don't have the staff to keep up with it.
He also pointed to long wait times on the child abuse intake hotline, saying that in one case a hospital worker waited 90 minutes before being connected. “This is a significant enough period of time to be viewed as a potential barrier to the reporting of child maltreatment,” Moran said.
The article even goes on to say that the Governor wants to criminalize failure to report abuse cases when they can't handle the volume of calls they're already getting.

I could even take you overseas and show you similar problems like what's going on in New Zealand for example...
A pre-school manager trying to report an at-risk child to Oranga Tamariki was on hold for over half an hour with no answer, then again for 20 minutes, she says.
So when there is a child who really is being abused, people can't get through or the CPS investigators are too busy investigating the fake ones so God only knows what will happen to them.

You'd think they would know better

In Mandated Reporter training, they learn that it's better to be safe than sorry.  In other words, it's better to put 10 innocent parents through the ringer than it is to miss that one child who really is being abused and nobody comes to save them, if that makes any sense. 

They also learn that if there is no abuse, then there is no harm done when making that report because supposedly, the "trained CPS investigators" will be able to tell the difference.  I disagree with this theory too.  CPS causes harm and unnecessary trauma to innocent parents and the kids.  CPS has even gone as far as to put children who haven't been abused through invasive screenings not limited to strip searches to look for bruises and vaginal exams on little girls if there has been a false allegation of sexual abuse.  That can be traumatic as well.

They fail to teach anybody that a CPS investigation is terrifying and stressful on parents who might be struggling or are overwhelmed or dealing with the difficulties of life in general.  It's especially scary if you are a new parent who has never dealt with anything like this before.  Even if the cases is closed quickly with no finding of abuse, the parent is left with that nagging fear of somebody showing up to take their kid away.  CPS has an uncanny ability to  multiply ones stress levels pretty quickly.  An investigation is invasive.  The parents can be left with PTSD, afraid to answer the door, with instant panic if there is a knock and you're not expecting anybody.

What they should be teaching Mandated Reporters is to make a call when they are reasonably sure that something is wrong.  You're not going to save anybody by reporting garbage.

What about he kids who are left to their demise? 

The Pennsylvania article also says that 40 children died from abuse and neglect in the state in 2017.  Of course, one child abuse death is too many.  We should all agree on that.  But I do gotta wonder how many of these kids would still be alive today if the workers weren't so busy dealing with 42,649 phony reports of abuse or neglect.

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