By Jessica Vician
Educators play a significant role in a child’s life. By name, they are largely responsible for delivering and nurturing a child’s education. Their role allows them to shape a child’s academic, social, and emotional mind, as well as a child’s physical health. Therefore, educators must also identify problems in a child’s home life, especially abuse or neglect.
While an educator’s main role is to teach, they cannot successfully help a child learn if that child is being abused or neglected, as the child will not arrive to school ready to learn if they are suffering or mistreated at home. As we know, educators are required by law to report any suspected instances of abuse or neglect. Once the report has been filed with the appropriate people and/or agencies, the educator must decide whether or not to proactively tell the parents about the report.
There are pros and cons to the educator discussing this matter with a child’s parents directly. For instance, some educators might prefer to alert the parents in order to maintain a transparent and honest relationship. Telling the parents about the report right away, especially in a situation when the suspected abuse or neglect may have been committed by someone other than the parents, might help the parent understand that the educator is looking out for the child and can be trusted in the future.
While educators may have good intentions of maintaining a relationship with the child’s parents, according to ChildWelfare.gov, Child Protective Services (CPS) recommends that the educators do not directly inform the parents of the accusations and ensuing report for the following reasons:
- The child might be in danger once the parents know the abuse or neglect was reported, especially if they are the cause of the abuse or neglect.
- The parents might ask the child to change their story or lie about the abuse or neglect when CPS interviews them.
- The parents might take the child away before the authorities can intervene, for fear of prosecution or shame.
- The child, especially an adolescent, might harm him or herself or commit suicide. The same could also happen with the accused.
While the educator might decide not to directly inform the parents of the report, there is always a chance that the parents could contact the educator. In that case, CPS recommends referring the parents to the school’s contact on the case, which is likely a social worker or counselor.
Always treat the parents with respect, as it’s important for them to feel heard. However, obey your local Child Protective Services’ requirements in terms of confidentiality and limit what information you share about the report.
Reporting abuse or neglect isn’t an easy thing to do, as it is a strong accusation that can disrupt a child’s life. However, if the child is in danger, it is important to protect them by advocating for their welfare. Learn more about reporting child abuse or neglect during Child Abuse Prevention Month at ChildWelfare.gov.