Department of Children and Family Services advocates reached out to parish representatives for their assistance in helping to stop child abuse during a coalition meeting March 17 at the St. Helena Parish Police Jury building in Greensburg.
Child welfare manager Celeste Skinner said the first step in helping abused or neglected children is learning to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect.
The presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring in a family; however, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination, you should take a closer look at the situation and consider the possibility of child abuse, Skinner said.
Skinner said the department relies on community residents, friends and family members, as well as mandated reporters, to recognize and report the signs of abuse. Mandated reporters are anyone who works with children in their profession and are required to report the signs, she said.
“What that means is that if you are a mandated reporter and suspect abuse or neglect, you have to report it,” Skinner said. “If you don’t report it and the department learns that you were aware of the signs, you could be fined or even put in jail.”
The child welfare worker said examples of mandated reporters include:
A health practitioner who provides health care services such as a physician, surgeon, physical therapist, dentist, resident, intern or a hospital staff member.
A mental health or social service practitioner who provides mental health care or social services diagnosis, assessment, counseling or treatment.
A member of the clergy such as a priest, rabbi, duly ordained clerical deacon or minister.
A teaching or child care provider or any person who provides or assists in the schools.
Skinner said an Aug. 1, 2013, law requires mandatory reporters to undergo training.
“You can do the training online at www.dcfs.la.gov/mandatedreportertraining, or call us at (985) 748-2001 and we will come to you,” Skinner said.
The child welfare worker said that not only mandated reporters can report child abuse or neglect. Anyone who is concerned that a child is being neglected or abused can call the Department of Children and Family Services toll-free at (855) 452-5437, 24 hours a day.
Coalition secretary Rita Allen asked Skinner if family services can provide training and hold awareness meetings for the community during the coalition meetings.
“We most certainly can. You tell me what you need and we will provide it,” Skinner said. “We have people trained and will come out anytime you want to do the training.”