What do you do when a child discloses that he or she has been abused or neglected in some way?
It is important to understand the distinction between clarifying what a child has said and doing an investigation. Only a child protective agency or county designee can conduct an investigation. It is the obligation of the mandated reporter to ask only those questions that would help determine whether there are grounds for reasonable suspicion.
It is also important not to make promises that cannot be kept. Often children who disclose child abuse say they will only tell their secret if ‘you promise not to tell anyone.’ A mandated reporter cannot keep this promise. If it is given, and later the confidence is broken, the child is likely to feel betrayed and trust will be jeopardized.
Some comments that might be helpful are:
- I’m glad you told me.
- Thank you for trusting me with this.
- It is not your fault.
- We will work together to get some help.
- It took a lot of courage to tell me.