Social workers, volunteers and parents are required by law now in Georgia to report suspected child abuse to appropriate authorities.
But making that call for the first time can be intimidating, and people often hesitate because they’re unsure whether it’s genuine abuse, said Dan Hillman, the executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., a nonprofit child advocacy group.
To take some of the guesswork out of the process, Child Enrichment provided free training Thursday to 55 people at the Kroc Center on Broad Street.
“The first report is often the most difficult,” Hillman said.
About half of the people in attendance were social workers, who attended for a refresher course and to learn more about mandatory reporting.
Percival Galloway, a volunteer for Court Appointed Special Advocates, said mandatory reporting would have made a difference in the child molestation scandal at Penn State.
“This can stop abuse from recurring,” Galloway said.
Social workers for the Richmond County Board of Education agreed.
Carolyn Johnson said often people are afraid to report because they don’t want to get involved. Sometimes abuse goes unreported in low-income families because they don’t want the bread winner to be taken from the home, added Jeff Williams, also with the Board of Education.
The law, which went into effect July 1, expands mandatory reporters to volunteers at places such as churches, soccer fields, after-school clubs and field trips. Failing to report is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Hillman urges a common sense approach to reporting abuse. Eliminate obvious reasons for a child’s behavior or bruises, such as an illness or a sports injury. When confident that there is reasonable suspicion of abuse, report it to the appropriate school administrator or organization staffers.
“The person needs to feel good about it,” Hillman said.