Help me know what to do for possible child abuse
August 19, 2017 3:00 PM   Subscribe

My son told me that on Friday morning, his school bus seat-mate told him that their father punched them that morning for leaving their backpack outside all night. Help me do the right thing.

I told my son that he did the right thing by telling me. I questioned him closely, and he believes his friend because friend was nearly crying, and I believe that my son is telling me the truth of what he heard.

No child (8) should ever be punched and I want to report this to the right person/people. I worry though that maybe the friend said, "punished" instead of "punched" and my son misunderstood, or that the friend exaggerated or made it up.

Since I didn't talk to the child in question (and won't have an opportunity to do so), what should I do?
posted by banjonaut to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Would it be a good idea to call the principal, or your son's teacher, and tell them what your son told you? At least then the appropriate people will know to keep an eye out for further signs. It's a start.
posted by Autumnheart at 3:06 PM on August 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

Assuming you're still located in Georgia, school teachers are mandated reporters there, which means that they are legally required to report reasonable suspicion of child abuse. The simplest way for you to deal with the weight of the information you have may be to talk to the teacher of the child in question; they'll already have training in how to make such a report.
posted by telegraph at 3:09 PM on August 19, 2017 [21 favorites]

I'm an elementary school teacher. Tell the seat-mate's classroom teacher; like telegraph said, we have the training (and the obligation) to file a report. The classroom teacher may also have additional information about the student and his home life (like, is this already under investigation, etc.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 3:16 PM on August 19, 2017 [9 favorites]

Yep, chiming in, as a former elementary teacher, to say tell the teacher and/or the principal. They're mandated reporters; they will get the appropriate balls rolling.
posted by BlahLaLa at 3:24 PM on August 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

The longer it takes to report, the greater the chance for a child to be injured. I'd urge you to report it yourself if you feel comfortable doing so. If not, contact someone in the child's school quickly.

I used to take reports for the Department of Social Services in Massachusetts, and we routinely took reports along these lines. I'm not sure how reporting works in your state, but it was possible to do an anonymous phone report in MA. You would need the family's address and some basic information about the child (name, age, etc) for an investigation to take place.

If telegraph is correct and you are in Georgia, here is the DCFS site. You can place a call to them 24/7 at 1-855-422-4453. Here's a PDF FAQ about reporting in Georgia.
posted by tip120 at 4:09 PM on August 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I went to the principal of a child's school to report neglect, the principal handed me the phone and I made the call from his office.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:57 PM on August 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

And if your not in GA in other states (like NC) all adults are technically mandatory reporters.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:39 PM on August 19, 2017

Call and report it. The person who answers will be trained to ask questions. I would consider leaving out the bus part of the story for greater anonymity, but they are good at understanding how to keep a report anonymous. In many cases, the adult may be offered parenting classes, and that can be a helpful valve for parental frustration. Thank you for being a caring adult.
posted by theora55 at 5:46 PM on August 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thank you all. I will report.
posted by banjonaut at 6:23 PM on August 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

Hi, mandated reporter here.

I make reports all the time due to the nature of my job. It's super useful to have as much demographic information as possible so they can act on your report.

But the child's name and birthdays will do. You will get a report number and if you find additional information you can call and have it added. Non mandated reporters can be anonmyous.

You can have your son around to describe what happened, it can be useful to get the first hand account.

Of course, due diligence by informing the school should be done. They can make their own report as well, or add to your report with the report number in some states.

It can take a bit to get a woker, otherwise the process is pretty painless.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:23 PM on August 19, 2017

I am a mandated reporter, though due to the nature of my job I've (thankfully) never had to make a report. I agree with those saying to tell the child's teacher so they can be aware and on the lookout, but I'm curious as to whether third-hand knowledge (son -> you -> teacher) is sufficient to make a formal report at this point. I can see how for the child's safety, better to report as soon as there is reasonable suspicion (which this incident sounds like there is), but I can also see how it can easily turn into a game of telephone/things blown up out of proportion. Can someone with more legal knowledge weigh in as to the difference between third hand knowledge and hearsay?
posted by basalganglia at 5:04 AM on August 20, 2017

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