We Are all mandated reporters
In Pennsylvania, adults fall into two categories: Mandated Reporters and Permissive Reporters. Mandated Reporters are the professionals and volunteers, such as teachers, social workers and nurses, who are required by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect. All those who are not mandated are considered permissive reporters - encouraged but not required to make a report.
This categorization exists in most states. However, there are an increasing number like New Jersey who have designated all adults, regardless of profession, volunteer role, etc. mandated reporters. In those states, any adult with reasonable cause to believe that a child is being abused or neglected must report it to the state for investigation.
The idea behind mandated reporter states is that we are all responsible for the well-being of young people in our communities. By creating groups of individuals who can ignore suspected abuse, we have given them permission to ignore suspected abuse. Children are safer and more able to find help when the adults in their lives regardless of profession are committed to doing what’s right.
Though we continue to live in a state with both mandated and permissive reporters, perhaps now is the time for all of us to begin thinking of ourselves as mandated reporters.
To report suspected child abuse in Pennsylvania, contact ChildLine.
Sexual Assault Awareness Month
Sexual abuse/exploitation is one of the many reasons why a child may enter foster care. However, sexual abuse/exploitation does not always stop when foster care begins. In some cases, it starts. A 2001 study out of John Hopkins University found that young people in foster care are 4 times more likely to be sexually abused than their peers not in care; youth in group homes are 28 times more likely. Twenty-eight. Additionally, in 2013, more than half of the victims of sex trafficking recovered by the FBI were youth in foster care.
Foster care is meant to be a place of safety after abuse and/or neglect. In many cases, as evidenced by the statistics above, it is not. While there are professionals and, ideally, other caring adults who work diligently to protect and ensure the wellbeing of youth in foster care, it is not always enough, particularly when it comes to sexual abuse.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Learn more about sexual assault and abuse and how you can be a part of protecting young people at risk.
Muddy Puddles And All!
On Saturday, April 9, RJLF Fellows, Mentors and staff braved the lingering rain and an unbelievable number of muddy puddles for breakfast at Lions Pride Park in Warrington. We were joined by Meghan Hughes of Meghan Reneed Photography, who generously offered to take portraits of our Fellows. She had done so previously in December 2020. Meghan captured photos of our Fellows and their families, Fellows and their mentors, old and new Fellows meeting, and a senior portrait for one of our graduating Fellows. We are so grateful for her time and talents, and cannot wait to see the pictures!
Outside of the photoshoots, Fellows and Mentors connected, catching up while their kids tackled the impressive and incredibly fun playground. Despite the weather, many lingered in the park long after the event’s end-time, welcoming the sun when it finally appeared.
It has been far too long since we have been able to come together for fun, and we look forward to many more events in the near future.
What is neglect?
More than 75% of children who are victims of maltreatment have been neglected. But what exactly does that mean? Neglect may seem less tangible than abuse - less physically apparent than a broken arm or string of bruises and more challenging to describe than an assault (in terms of example/encounter not emotional toll). However, neglect is more prevalent than physical or sexual abuse and must be understood to be stopped or prevented.
Broadly defined, neglect is the failure of a parent/guardian to provide for the basic needs of a child. This includes food, shelter, medical care, clothing and supervision. Many states also cite the failure to provide education for a child as a form of neglect. Such a lack can be difficult to spot in a child with whom you don’t live - much as other forms of abuse are. However, there are signs, indicators that can alert an adult (or peer) to a young person’s needs.
Changes in behavior, health or developmental concerns such as anemia, lack of medical care or poor language skills, and poor hygiene can all be signs of neglect. If you suspect neglect, it’s important to listen to the child, talk with other caring adults and make a report as necessary. In Pennsylvania, reports are made via ChildLine.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Neglect is a form of abuse. Use this month to learn more about neglect and other types of abuse, so that you, too, can be a part of helping a child. It only takes one caring adult.
Normalizing Casual Violence
The news, social media and conversations on couches lit up Sunday night after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Oscars. He did so after Rock told a distasteful joke about Smith’s wife - a fact that some have used for justification while others have argued the opposite. Still, it is not the actual slap or what led to it that has caught the attention of many. It is what happened afterward, which is to say nothing. Celebrities gasped, Rock recovered and not much later, Smith was greeted with a standing ovation as he was awarded the Oscar for Best Actor.
What should have happened? It’s hard to say. Smith could have been made to leave or he could have chosen to do so himself, for example. Regardless, the fact that nothing happened highlighted how we, as a society, view casual violence. It’s normal.
However, normalizing casual violence is dangerous. It implies an acceptance of violence and invalidates the victim, who may sometimes be a comedian on stage being slapped by a peer but is more often a romantic partner or a child. Normalizing casual violence increases the likelihood of casual violence and puts many without power in more danger.
Now is Will Smith slapping Chris Rock the most violent outburst seen in Hollywood or normalized by the world? No. It’s not even close. But it is an example - one that in a society of short attention spans, sits at the forefront presently. While it does, we should remember that our view of violence doesn’t exist in isolation. It has ripples. And so when violence does occur, we should respond appropriately with action.