you are a mandated child abuse reporter.

you’ve been given a credential or a license or a piece of paper, and you must report suspected child abuse to the authorities.

and here is what they won’t teach you in school.

that you will call the authorities, and you need to have your ducks in a row.

who, what, where, when and why…names of people, siblings, etc. mother’s maiden name. birthdates.

and what they won’t tell you is that you’d better have a damned good reason for reporting.

most of all? you must absolutely convince the worker that you are mandated.

get their name, and the address where you will be sending the written report.

because, you must make both a verbal and a written report of your suspicions.

and what they won’t teach you in school is that you will feel like you are making a mistake, that you aren’t really sure because you’re not an investigator, and that you must convince the worker that you are convinced that. something is wrong.

when i was a school counselor in 1990, i made so many reports, that the workers practically held the phones away from their ears and said, “it’s linda vermeulen. who wants to take this?”

because. i simply would not take no for an answer.

and neither should you.

here is the failsafe way of getting the report to the right person. you’ve been taught this in school, but you may not know the tricks of the trade.

  1. address and stamp your envelope to the right agency
  2. have the child’s name, address, birthdate, siblings, phone numbers at hand.
  3. have the child’s mother’s maiden name at hand. you’ll need it, and this child may already be in the system.
  4. fill out the form as much as possible.
  5. put your name and information on it. sign and date it.
  6. as soon as the worker picks up the phone, tell them you are a mandated reporter, and need to report.
  7. ask them their name (you need it on the form)
  8. have the incident filled out already on the form, because when the worker starts talking to you, it’s important that you read the facts as you perceive it exactly how it is written. tell them the level of urgency needed.
  9. ask them when they will be able to investigate. write down what they say.
  10. mail the form as soon as possible. like, get up and walk to the mailbox.

what they won’t teach you in school is that this worker, with all his best intentions is busy. very busy, unfortunately. and unless you convey some urgency, your report will spin into the file of a bazillion other reports.

so. here’s the trick

the next time you hear about a suspicious incident you report. again. because, it’s the preponderance of evidence that finally FINALLY gets some agencies to act. even if you think this is the report is minutia…i assure you it isn’t. i’m not talking about being reckless, here. i’m talking about being the only mouthpiece some child might have. you are it. again and again and again, you must report. to the point of having hundreds of these reports under your belt. if you have been working in this field for any length of time, you will get to know these workers. get a clean, friendly level of communication with them. don’t be a pest, but keep at it. respect what they have to do, and convey that respect.

don’t waste their time. be prepared with the steps above. it took me a lot of times to figure out that i need to have all the information ready to go when i have to make a report.

if only one of those men at penn state had reported to the correct authorities, the monster who harmed all those boys may have been stopped. instead, they were in fear of losing their jobs or their positions or the respect of their colleagues so they could keep the machine going. and what did they do?

they sacrificed at least 10 boys. boys that could be mine. or yours. i read about the story in the headlines, and i sat here trying to type out a response for over an hour.

you. if you are not going to help, then get the hell out of the way. because i will. every time.

this isn’t vigilante justice. if you’re wrong, you won’t be injuring some person’s reputation. if it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

but if it’s right. you just might save a life.

and that, my friends…is your job.

7 thoughts on “what they won’t teach you in school.

  1. It’s tough to call CPS… and sometimes you have people telling you not to… Like your principal. He or She is WRONG… no one can or should tell you not to call if you are a mandated reporter. You have to call. Furthermore, people who tell you not to call can be held accountable by law. (this is for new teachers…Linda covered everything else).

    The hardest thing is never knowing what the end results of your call are…because most of the time you never know. The worst is when the people you called about come back and say they “know” you called. They don’t…your name is never disclosed. The VERY worst is when the authorities come and remove the child from the home environment within hours. That means you were so very right which in these cases is a very sad thing to be.

    You just keep reporting, even the little things. Trust your gut instincts…teachers just KNOW when things are not right… then look for things that really substantiate your feelings… in the end that is all you can do, but it is all you need to do.

  2. Excellent post, Linda! And excellent comment, Nancy. It is a sad sad subject. I am happy that Sandusky was convicted on so many counts. Hopefully he will be locked away for the rest of his life.

  3. What they ALSO do not teach you is:
    1. You can file a report on the same family numerous times and things do not change ~ because if they did ~ you would not be filing numerous times
    2. Filing numerous times without result can be very disheartening ~ BUT ~ you never give up
    3. Getting \”the letter\” in the mail that says the \”case is closed\” is not always a good thing and your gut instinct will tell you so
    4. You may make some enemies along the way ~ but ~ you are a mandated reported and that is that
    5. Never stop watching and listening to what a child is \”not\” doing or saying

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