Reporting Child Abuse
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services states that there are three general reasons people don’t report suspected cases:
1. Fear of lawsuit or reprisal if abuse is reported.
2. Ignorance of where and how to make reports.
3. Belief that the abusive treatment is within normal range.
The law requires any person who believes that a child is being abused, neglected, or exploited to report the circumstances to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Abuse Hotline. A person making a report is immune from civil or criminal liability, and the name of the person making the report is kept confidential. Teachers and other professionals must report suspected abuse or neglect of a child within 48 hours of suspecting the child has been or may be abused or neglected. Unfortunately many cases go unreported. While it is sometimes a matter of no one recognizing the signs, often the suspicion is there and still no complaint is made. Reporting suspected child abuse makes it possible to protect the child and for a family to get help. DFPS would rather get a report and later learn it is unfounded than for people to hesitate until they are certain abuse or neglect is going on.
There are several agencies that will act on reports of abuse: the Austin Police Department, the Travis County’s Sheriff’s Department, Texas DFPS, and the Texas State Child Abuse Hotline:
CHILD ABUSE & NEGLECT HOTLINE: 1-800-252-5400 or www.txabusehotline.org
Staff at Covenant UMC Preschool will receive at least one hour of training annually covering the prevention and reporting of child abuse. Our staff will communicate to the director any concerns as to the well-being of children and/or families in the program. If a staff member sees signs of abuse, or has reason to suspect abuse, we will contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services as well as taking other appropriate actions to obtain assistance and intervention.
Preventing Child Abuse
Child abuse prevention is stopping child abuse and neglect before it happens. The best way to prevent child abuse and neglect is to support families and provide parents with the skills and resources they need. Although all causes cannot be summed up, certain issues make people more at risk. Stress, relationship problems, substance abuse, financial problems, depression, and other mental health problems can all lead to abusive or neglectful behavior.
Prevention builds on family strengths. Through prevention activities such as educating parents, frequent communication with families, and parent support groups, many families are able to find the support they need to care for their children. Prevention efforts help parents develop their parenting skills, understand the benefits of positive discipline techniques, and understand and meet their child’s emotional, physical, and developmental needs. Prevention programs can help parents identify other needs they may have and offer assistance in getting additional support.
Here are some community resources offering parenting classes and other support to families:
Bridges to Growth, 512-864-3008, www.georgetownproject.com.
For Kids’ Sake, 512-476-9490, www.for-kids-sake.com.
For help with a family crisis contact Safe Place, 512-267-SAFE, www.safeplace.org.
Online training is available at Texas A&M Extension Service.
More information can be found under parenting at www.dfps.state.tx.us.