CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The people required to report suspected or disclosed neglect and other abuse of kids should be clear under a new West Virginia law.
It’s clarity that’s needed, said Emily Chittenden-Laird, executive director of the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network.
During the past decade, “They (lawmakers) started to carve out special provisions for different situations and it got to where it was so confusing that mandated reporters really struggled to understand what their mandate was,” she explained.
“Whenever you’re dealing with a child who is in a traumatic situation, who is disclosing issues, you need to be able to identify very quickly what to do.”
With the law, educators, child care workers, medical personnel, social workers and law enforcement officers are on the mandatory reporter list.
“Basically, it’s individuals who by their profession or volunteer positions are placed into a position of trust for a child,” Chittenden-Laird said.
According to the law that took effect Tuesday, June 5, the full list of mandatory reporters includes the following:
Any medical, dental, or mental health professional, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer, school teacher or other school personnel, social service worker, child care or foster care worker, emergency medical services personnel, peace officer or law-enforcement official, humane officer, member of the clergy, circuit court judge, family court judge, employee of the Division of Juvenile Services, magistrate, youth camp administrator or counselor, employee, coach or volunteer of an entity that provides organized activities for children, or commercial film or photographic print processor who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is neglected or abused, including sexual abuse or sexual assault, or observes the child being subjected to conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect.
Mandatory reporters have no more than 24 hours to call the West Virginia Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline, the centralized intake hotline for Child Protective Services, at 1-800-352-6513.
The previous time frame was 48 hours.
“In reality, these kids are in a very serious situation sometimes and we don’t need to be waiting three or four days to make this report. We need it to happen as soon as is practically possible,” said Chittenden-Laird.
In cases where serious physical abuse, sexual abuse or sexual assault is disclosed or suspected, the mandatory reporter must also contact State Police and “any law-enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the complaint.
“You can’t report to your supervisor and expect your supervisor to make the report,” Chittenden-Laird noted.
“If you’re the individual who has the concern about a child, who has received a disclosure, you need to call that number yourself.”
The mandated reporting legislation, SB 465, passed during the 2018 Regular Legislative Session.
It came out of recommendations from the West Virginia Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children.