Recently adopted criteria clarify response to, and define what exactly is, child neglect
BY DENISE MARTIN
Have you ever been concerned about the welfare of youngsters in a house in your neighborhood, or questioned whether the 13-year-old next door should be staying alone overnight in his house? Are there times when you wanted to notify someone about a potentially-neglected child but you weren't sure who to call?
The County Health and Human Services Department (HHS) recently got approval on a new set of child protection screening criteria and the guide spells out situations when protective services are warranted and exactly what social workers are considering in deciding how to proceed on a child's situation. The County Board unanimously adopted the guidelines to be consistent with state laws and rules.
Who to notify:
The county will send a social worker if there's a report of alleged child maltreatment in a family home setting, foster care, family child care settings or juvenile correctional facilities.
Any allegations of maltreatment of a child in a school, daycare center, hospital or group home should be directed to the agency responsible for licensing. This would be the state Dept. of Education, HHS, Dept. of Health.
(Child protection screening staff at the county government center can assist you in locating the proper agency to report to.)
The number for the state Office of Health Facility Complaints is 651-215-8702 for concerns about nursing homes, hospitals, DD care facilties, regional treatment centers.
The Dept. of Education can be contacted at 651-582-8546 for reporting child maltreatment at charter schools, public schools, or pre-schools.
Daycare centers, group homes, shelter placements are overseen by the state Dept. of Human Services Division of Licensing, 651-297-4123.
If the situation appears to be an emergency and needs immediate response, contact local law enforcement. Only law enforcement, and the courts, have the authority to involuntarily remove a child due to imminent harm.
There's a couple of levels of response detailed in the county criteria.
In cases where the child maltreatment is "substantial" investigations are required to be conducted.
In cases where the child isn't in imminent danger the protective services worker will do a Family Assessment. This involves working along with the family in improving the safety and welfare of the child, and other needs of the family.
If the assessment is not productive and the family does not follow through the case may be changed to the investigation level.
What to be aware of:
According to the criteria adopted last week by the County Board the following are various situations where complaints would generate agency response:
~ Failing to provide clothing, necessary shelter, necessary food, plus failure to provide health care or hygiene to the point where the youngster is unable to participate in a community or school setting.
~ Environmental; conditions in the dwelling such as no heat, broken glass, open windows, gas leak, dangerous drugs, or controlled substances, guns not stored safely, or animal waste and infestations.
~ Any incident of striking a child with closed fist, unreasonable interference with a child's breathing, purposely giving a child alcohol, poison or controlled substance in order to control or punish. Unreasonable confinement. Threatening with a weapon.
~ County Child Protective Services will assess reports of families camping as their dwelling site, living in vehicles, etc.
If a child is younger than 12 and the school has made efforts to resolve attendance problems, the protective services staff will investigate, and the parent or guardian is presumed to be failing to comply with compulsory instruction laws.
Every child between age 7 and 16 must receive instruction.
Home schooling is a legal option provided the family is following through on requirements of the local school district.
Children younger than 7 who have been enrolled in kindergarten (half or full day) are subject to mandatory attendance and must receive instruction.
To withdraw a student between age 16-18 the student or guardian/parent must attend a meeting with school personnel to review options available, plus written notice of intent to withdraw the child is required. Students 16 and 17 years old are held to the same attendance standards as a middle schooler unless officially withdrawn.
General rules to go by:
Do not leave alone any child younger than age 7.
Children ages 8-10 should not be alone more than three hours.
Children 11-13 can be left up to 12 hours with the expectation the adult or caregiver will return the same day.
Children 14 and 15 should not be alone in the home more than 24 hours.
Children under age 11 should not provide unsupervised child care. It is acceptable for children 11 and older to babysit, those ages 15, 16 and 17 may babysit for a 24 hour period.
If you are a lone caregiver or parent-- and are facing hospitalization, in patient treatment or other situation and have nowhere to turn for help, child protective services can provide placement.