2009 Fall CampLine
An interview with Dana Andrews, licensing administrator for the Division of Child Care, Colorado Department of Human Services
When camp professionals call the ACA Camp Crisis Hotline to discuss mandated reporter issues, they often want to know what to expect if they phone their state child abuse reporting authority. We've gone to one of those authorities to better understand what happens when they receive a call.
"Child abuse and neglect laws, as well as who is defined as a mandated reporter, vary from state to state," states Dana Andrews, licensing administrator for the Division of Child Care, Colorado Department of Human Services. "In Colorado, for example, every staff member at camp is a mandated reporter. In our state's rules, every camp staff member is required to read and sign a statement confirming knowledge of what child abuse is and affirming they are aware of their role as a mandated reporter." This important document will be required and sought during any investigation of child abuse.
The Fall 2008 issue of The CampLine details the requirements of mandated reporting, www.ACAcamps.org/campline/2008fall.pdf . We've asked Ms. Andrews to be more specific about who to call and what to expect from the phone call.
Who To Call
If you believe a child has been harmed (whether at home, outside of camp, or at camp), you should report concerns to the appropriate authorities. In every state, qualified experts are available who can listen to your concerns, examine the situation, and determine the best course of action as to whether intervention or other services are necessary.
Visit www.childwelfare.gov/responding/reporting.cfm  for a listing of in-state, toll-free, and local phone numbers to report suspected child abuse. An additional resource for information about reporting child abuse or neglect is the Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline, 800-4-A-Child® (800-422-4453).
What to Expect
During the intake and assessment after your initial call is made, your report or referral undergoes a screening process by professional staff who use criteria specific to your state law to determine if your report should be accepted for detailed investigation or assessment. Those accepted for a comprehensive inquiry are often referred to as "screened-in" reports. If your referral does not meet the criteria for immediate, intensive investigation, the call will be "screened out" and referred to other services. Every report of potential child abuse and neglect is taken seriously and is intensely scrutinized during the screening process. No report is left without a level of investigation. The level of investigation is determined by state criteria and screening requirements. If a call is screened out of a formal investigation, the report qualifies for yet another investigative measure, which may include referral to the Child Care Licensing Agency for that state.
"When a call is made to report an abuse or neglect allegation, an initial screening process by trained professionals in your state will take place based on your particular state's statute for defining what constitutes child abuse or neglect. This screening process is not the same in all states. For instance, in Colorado, if a report is 'screened in,' the severity of the allegation of abuse determines how quickly someone is sent to investigate. Authorities will make an unannounced visit to the camp," explains Andrews.
An investigation may be conducted by authorities deemed by your particular state, which could include child protective services staff, the police, or a multidisciplinary team of professionals. Investigators may interview camp staff, terminated staff members, the executive director, program director, or other campers, depending on what was observed and the role staff and campers might have had in the situation. Investigators may travel outside the state to visit the child's home and interview the parents.
As a camp professional, it is your responsibility to promote the safety and well-being of each child under your care. Responding to suspicions of child abuse and neglect and being aware of your responsibility as a mandated reporter are ways you can protect a child from imminent or future harm.
Reference: Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2008). "Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect." [cited 2 October 2009] Available from www.childwelfare.gov