Mandatory training for recognizing and reporting child abuse was provided during the Community Resource Council meeting this week.
State law requires emergency services personnel, teachers, social workers, medical professionals, counselors, clergy members, computer technicians, commercial photographers and others to report suspected child abuse. About 25 such professionals were trained Wednesday on how to recognize signs of neglect and physical, sexual and emotional abuse, and the procedures for reporting it.
Ka Xiong of the Merced County Office of Education conducted the training. In 2012, she said, 48.6 percent of the 5,214 incidents of child abuse or neglect reported in Merced County were substantiated.
“A child can overcome if they’re put into a safe home,” Xiong said. “Reporting abuse may help to lower activity in the home, and protecting the identified child may help provide opportunities to protect the other children in the home. Basically, children cannot protect themselves.”
She said people in professions that require them to report abuse cannot do so anonymously if they become suspicious of abusive incidents while they are on the job. She said if the person is off duty and learns of possible abuse, they may feel a moral obligation to report it anonymously or otherwise.
Failure to report abuse by those required to do so can result in six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Xiong said since the Jerry Sandusky case, states have been increasing penalties on professionals who do not report child abuse. Sandusky is the former Penn State assistant football coach who was convicted of 45 counts of abuse of 10 boys in a 15-year span. Many believe the number of boys Sandusky abused would not have been as high if adults at the university had contacted the proper authorities.
Xiong cautioned against conducting investigations.
“We aren’t asking you to do anything more than what you think will have a (positive impact) on the child’s welfare,” she said. “The investigation will be done by Child Protective Services and law enforcement.”
Xiong said parents being investigated for child abuse often attempt to find out who reported them. She said mandated reporters of abuse can choose to disclose that information.
Xiong showed slides of bruises and burns on children. She said attention should be paid to stories of how bruises occurred. Bruises in strange places like the back of the ear can be alarming, Xiong said.
She said professionals of child abuse should use common sense. She said in California consensual sex between a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old is illegal, but if two 14-year-olds are engaging in consensual sex, it may be better to counsel them instead of reporting it as abuse.