Fearful that the recent dramatic drop in the number of child abuse cases in Southwest Michigan is not because actual child abuse has decreased, the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office and the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Michigan are sending an urgent reminder to professionals regarding the importance of the law of Mandated Reporting.
Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic has joined forces with Executive Director Jamie Rossow of the Children’s Advocacy Center in a special appeal today.
They tell us that in our community, and across the county, those working with victims of child abuse have seen a dramatic drop in the number of child abuse cases being reported. That is of considerable concern because they know it is not because child abuse has decreased. In fact, many suspect the stress and isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic has likely increased instances of child abuse, and for some, has created a dangerous environment where that abuse goes undiscovered and unreported.
The two say, “It is important to know that The Michigan Child Protection Law requires the reporting of child abuse and neglect by certain persons and permits the reporting of child abuse and neglect by all persons.”
Examples of some of those considered mandated reporters under the law include:
- Physician’s Assistants
- Medical Examiners
- Licensed Emergency Medical Care Providers
- Registered Dental Hygienists
- Social Workers
- Social Service Technicians
- Marriage and Family Therapists
- Licensed Professional Counselors
- Persons employed in any capacity by Friend of the Court
- School Administrators
- School Counselors
- Regulated Child Care Providers
- Law Enforcement Officers
- Members of the Clergy
Mandated reporters are an essential part of the child protection system because they have an enhanced capacity, through their expertise and direct contact with children, to identify suspected child abuse and neglect. Reports made by mandated reporters are confirmed at nearly double the rate of those made by non-mandated reporters. Mandated reporters are always required to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS). It is also important to note that:
- There are civil and criminal penalties for a mandated reporter’s failure to make a report. Likewise, there is a civil and criminal immunity for someone making a report in good faith.
- The information in a CPS report needs to be provided by the individual who actually has observed the injuries or had contact with the child regarding the report. This cannot be delegated to another individual.
- As a result of the pandemic, online communication has become the primary point of contact for many who work with children. Recognizing abuse can be done virtually and these suspicions still need to be reported, even if you did not have face-to-face contact with the alleged victim.
As community leaders in the prevention of child abuse in our community, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Michigan offers several abuse awareness, prevention, and reporting trainings to professionals and the community at no cost. If you have questions, or you would like more information, you are encouraged to contact Prevention and Outreach Specialist, Allie Kibler-Campbell, at email@example.com or 269.556.9640.