DCFS child abuse reporting laws and hotline - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

DCFS child abuse reporting laws and hotline

The following is a press release from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services:

BATON ROUGE - While questions surround the responsible parties involved in the recent child abuse allegations at Penn State University, Louisiana's law is clear in listing who is considered a mandated reporter of child abuse and neglect. The Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), reminds mandated reporters of their responsibility and that DCFS' statewide, toll-free child abuse hotline, 1-855-4LA-KIDS, is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for anyone to report suspected abuse or neglect.

Louisiana's Children's Code Title VI, Article 603 is the law that mandates that professionals who may work with children in the course of their professional duties report all suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. Specifically, the law names as mandated reporters health practitioners, members of the clergy, mental health and social service practitioners, teachers and child care providers, police officers and law enforcement officials, commercial film and photographic print processors, mediators, parenting coordinators and Court Appointed Special Advocates.

"Our agency encourages all members of the public and especially mandated reporters to call 1-855-4-LA-KIDS to speak with a trained child welfare specialist anytime a child is a suspected victim of abuse or neglect," said DCFS Secretary Ruth Johnson. "DCFS is committed to responding fully to the needs of Louisiana children who maybe suffering from abuse, and 1-855-4LA-KIDS provides an easy way for the public and mandated reporters to fulfill their responsibility to report suspected child abuse or neglect."

Johnson said that reporting suspicions of harm to a child is critical to protecting children and providing much needed help for the families. While concerned members of the public and mandated reporters previously had to wade through 25 parish and regional phone numbers to make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, today calling a single number can help to keep children safe from abuse.

"Learning to recognize the signs of abuse or neglect is the key to helping children who may be victims," said Johnson. "While the presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring in a family, a closer look at the situation may be warranted when such signs appear repeatedly or in combination."

The following signs may signal to mandated reporters or members of the public the presence of child abuse or neglect*:

The Child:

  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents' attention
  • Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
  • Lacks adult supervision
  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
  • Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home

The Parent:

  • Shows little concern for the child
  • Denies the existence of-or blames the child for-the child's problems in school or at home
  • Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
  • Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
  • Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs

The Parent and Child:

  • Rarely touch or look at each other
  • Consider their relationship entirely negative
  • State that they do not like each other

Physical abuse may be present when the child:

  • Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes
  • Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school
  • Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home
  • Shrinks at the approach of adults
  • Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver

Or when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child's injury
  • Describes the child as "evil," or in some other very negative way
  • Uses harsh physical discipline with the child
  • Has a history of abuse as a child

Sexual Abuse may be present when the child:

  • Has difficulty walking or sitting
  • Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
  • Reports nightmares or bedwetting
  • Experiences a sudden change in appetite
  • Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
  • Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
  • Runs away
  • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver

Or when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child's contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex
  • Is secretive and isolated
  • Is jealous or controlling with family members

Neglect may be present when the child:

  • Is frequently absent from school
  • Begs or steals food or money
  • Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses
  • Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor
  • Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather
  • Abuses alcohol or other drugs
  • States that there is no one at home to provide care

Or when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Appears to be indifferent to the child
  • Seems apathetic or depressed
  • Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner
  • Is abusing alcohol or other drugs

* Source: Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect Factsheet, Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2007

For more information about reporting child abuse or neglect in Louisiana, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/ReportChildAbuse.

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