As a mandatory reporter who works with children and adolescents, I am legally bound to report any signs of the above to Community Services. However, what happens if I see things outside of work? For kids and teens not being seen by me for therapy. Like say, I see signs of physical abuse on the kid next door. Or hear domestic violence in my neighbour’s house and know there is a child to witness it all.
I am not mandated to report.
But I still can.
I think if anything, this National Child Protection Week, that would be the message to pass on to people. To intervene if you see or know a child is being abused. And not just sit quietly on the sidelines. You do not have to be a mandatory reporter to make a report to Community Services if you suspect a child being abused.
People worry about making reports because they automatically think the child will be taken away from their parents but the truth is, that is generally the last resort. Community services will see if there are other reports against the parent and check out the facts first.
I can imagine several people thinking “Why should I interfere in someone else’s family life?” Here’s why.
Ongoing domestic violence can have an adverse impact on the development of the child’s brain. Prolonged exposure to stress results in elevated cortisol levels in the brain and this affects the manner in which the brain responds to stress. The child may end up being more anxious, hypervigilant, have poor attachment with their parents and others, or get depressed. [Source] In a domestic violent situation, children can get hurt physically as well and in extreme cases, are at risk of brain injury.
In adolescence, victims of ongoing DV or abuse, are more likely to engage in self-harm and risk taking behaviours including drug and alcohol abuse. Teens who are victims of abuse are more likely to have difficulty eating, sleeping and concentrating and may not care about things in their life. [Source] They are also more at risk of developing mental health problems including post-traumatic stress disorder, depressive disorders and anxiety disorders.
Most unfortunately, children and adolescents do not always disclose abuse. They are either scared or have been threatened to not say a word. There is also the fear that the family may break up and even though some of them may realise that it’s better to be out, they still hold themselves responsible. And that is why they need a voice.
They need someone to speak up for them.
To look out for them. Even if it is Joe Blo next door.
Legally we don’t have to interfere. But morally, it may be a different story.
Think of it this way — if adults don’t stand up for a child’s safety, who will?
Until next time,