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  • Oct18Wed

    Supporting Reporters

    October 18, 2017 Melodie Bissell
    Filed Under:
    Policies and Procedures

    Each province, state and territory has its own legislation about duty to report child abuse and the age of a child entitled to protection under the law. The statute of limitations varies depending on the State, Province or Territory you reside in.

    In Canada, if someone knows of or suspects that a child is being abused, that person has a legal responsibility to report the known or suspected abuse. It is your duty to report!
    In the USA, anyone who knows of or suspects that a child is being abused, that person may report the known or suspected abuse. However, professionals and mandated reporters are required under the law to report. In some states, everyone is required to report abuse.

    You can find the reporting guidelines on our PlanToProtect app which is available on the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store.


    • You have a duty to report!
    • You only need to suspect or believe a child is in need of protection, you do not need proof of the abuse!
    • It’s a direct report.
    • It’s an ongoing duty to report, continue to report as new information is brought to your attention.
    • The duty to report takes precedence over any duty of confidentiality.
    • It doesn’t matter if Child and Family Services is already involved.
    • It is protected from civil liability.

    Most reports can be made to:

    • Local Child Welfare Services
    • Local Police (911)
    • Canada: First Nations Child and Family Services Agencies
    • Many states, provinces and territories also have crisis help lines you can reach out to.

    Unfortunately, we have heard too often of individuals who obey the law and make a report, only to be told they shouldn’t have reported, or are reprimanded for reporting.  I heard about one staff member that was preparing for a volunteer training event.  She had brought her preschooler with her while she was setting up the chairs and tables for the training.

    She took her eyes off her daughter for a few minutes and a member came into the building and sexually abused the young child.  When the mother found out about it, she reported it to the Police and to leadership.  Leadership challenged her for reporting the abuse and said that it should have been handled internally not externally.  When she disagreed, they gave her notice that her employment was coming to an end.

    Over and over I hear stories of people being shunned, scolded, harassed and even fired for reporting abuse.  I find it so alarming that organizations that are committed to the protection of children, turn on the Chair of their protection committee, and reporters when they feel they have a legal duty to report abuse.

    Never is our commitment of protection tested as much as when someone feels called to report, and we have a choice to support the reporters.

    I believe it is really important for our policies to include specific policy statements that emphasize the importance of reporting allegations, disclosure and suspicions of abuse. Remember: don’t do your own investigation leave it up to the professionals to do the investigation.

    We recommend that you train and equip your volunteers to identify indicators of abuse and to watch for a pattern to emerge.  When in doubt… check it out… and call Child and Family Services and ask if a report should be made.

    In your policies we recommend you include:

    • That all allegations and/or suspicions of abuse will be taken seriously and handled with the utmost care. The reporter will be treated with dignity and respect;
    • That there should be no undue interference when a report of child abuse has been or is going to be filed with the Department of Social Services or the police;
    • Discretion must be observed and details of the suspected abuse must not be shared among the organization’s community. 
    • Information should be shared on a need-to-know basis, expanding only as individuals are drawn into the response and investigation.
    • Confidentiality for the reporter must be protected.
    • Organizational leadership will seek opportunity to provide individual care and counsel both for the reporter. Leadership will determine the need for professional assistance and evaluate and designate resources as needed and available.
    • At no time should an organization’s leadership or its individuals either engage in denial, minimization or blame the reporter. Organizational leadership will endeavor to support and defend the reporter.

    To fulfill your duty of care for your volunteers and staff you should be supporting those that are reporting allegations, disclosures and suspicions of abuse.

    When a staff member or volunteer does make a report recognize that this was difficult for them to do.  As much as possible, stand with them and support the decision to report, thank them for reporting and following your policies, procedures and their legal duty to report.  Thank them for caring for the child.

    Often these situations are highly, emotionally charged.  They also can become personal if you know the family/individual/child.  Even if you disagree with whether or not the report should have been made, remember that you may not have all the information, and that you may misunderstand what the duty to report is.  Come as a learner and ask the reporter to help you understand why the report needed to be made.  Commit to learning more about child abuse, the impact, the trauma a victim experiences, and your legal duty to report.

    The important thing to remember is that the reporter is acting in the best interest of the child or youth.  They can make the report with or without your support as they do have a legal requirement to make the report.

    If you find yourself in a position, where you are making a report and you are not being supported by leadership and team members, we would recommend you practice self-care, looking after yourself, treating yourself as a person who deserves care.  If you find yourself in an overwhelming emotional stage, self-care can ground you.  Think about the things you enjoy, activities that ground you and help you enjoy the moment, for example take a hot bubble bath, listen to music, engage in physical activity, watch a movie, or garden etc. If you need to seek out a counsellor or therapist.

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