New updates released for mandatory child abuse reporting lawBy Emily Etheredge Published 4:15pm Friday, August 9, 2013
Jana Zuelzke with Child Protect Children’s Advocacy Center said the more people who are required to report a child abuse case, the better it is for everyone, including the children.
“Calling in an abuse case could change the course of a child’s life,” Zuelzke said. “If dialing a few numbers and making a report is all it takes, then we believe it shouldn’t take the law forcing you to do it. We want every adult to understand, regardless of their occupation or their position in the community, we all have the social and ethical responsibility to report whether it is the law or not.”
Being informed about the reasons to call about a child being suspected of abuse is important and Zuelzke explained some of the symptoms could include a change in grades, a change in friends, a child becoming more withdrawn or more attention getting.
“Any big change that you see in this child could be an indicator,” Zuelzke said. “If you see those changes, pick up the phone and call local law enforcement or DHR.”
Chilton County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Jeff Cobb said he works child abuse cases in the county and is thankful for the changes to the law.
“It is nice being able to have mandatory reporters because otherwise, there are times when they just don’t report,” Cobb said. “This will allow more people to make a report if they suspect a child is being abused.”
Cobb said more cases are being brought forward by teachers, doctors, due to children feeling more at ease to disclose something to someone they trust.
“Most of the time, kids don’t want to talk to law enforcement because they are intimidated,” Cobb said. “They think if they tell someone involved in law enforcement it will be embarrassing or they will somehow get in trouble. It is really hard for children because with a lot of the cases I work, they don’t want to get in trouble or have their parents’ divorce because of something they have disclosed.”
“I don’t know if it is because more people are reporting suspected child abuse, but our case load has definitely increased the last couple of months.”
Colson said the driving force for most of the child abuse cases recently is largely due to drug abuse.
“It is amazing the people involved in drugs and realize the drugs are more important than their children,” Colson said. “Drugs and sex abuse cases are what is driving the higher numbers of cases we are having.”