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The Role of First Responders in Child Maltreatment Cases: Disaster and Nondisaster Situations
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau. Cage, Richard., Salus, Marsha K.|
|Year Published: 2010|
Purpose and Overview
In This Chapter
- Child maltreatment statistics
- Roles of first responders
- Purpose of manual
Child abuse and neglect affect children, families, and communities throughout the United States. According to 2008 data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS):
- An estimated 772,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect.
- An estimated 3.3 million referrals of abuse or neglect, concerning approximately 6 million children, were received by child protective services (CPS) agencies. Of those referrals, 62.5 percent were accepted for investigation or assessment.
- Nationally, 73.3 percent of child victims experienced neglect (including medical neglect), 16.1 percent were physically abused, 9.1 percent were sexually abused, and 7.3 percent were psychologically maltreated. Additionally, 9 percent of victims experienced "other" types of maltreatment, including abandonment and congenital drug addiction. A child could be identified as a victim of more than one type of maltreatment.1
|National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS)|
In addition to the NCANDS data, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also collects data through NIS. The most recent study, NIS-4, reviewed data collected from 2005-2006 and has shown an overall decrease in the incidence of child maltreatment since NIS-3, which used data from 1993. According to NIS-4, approximately 1.25 million children experienced neglect during the study year, as opposed to 1.55 million children from NIS-3. NIS-4 also provides data about types of maltreatment; victim, family, and perpetrator characteristics; report sources; and investigations. NIS uses different methodologies than NCANDS to collect and assess data; NCANDS collects annual state-level administrative data on official reports of child maltreatment, while NIS estimates more broadly the incidence of child maltreatment in the United States by including both cases that are reported to the authorities and those that are not.
To view the full NIS-4 report, visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/natl_incid/index.html.
Many community professionals are involved in the identification, investigation, prevention, and treatment of child maltreatment. First responders, including emergency medical technicians (EMTs), law enforcement officers, and CPS workers, often are the first professionals to arrive at a scene where child maltreatment may have occurred or where children may be at risk for being abused or neglected. When first responders encounter a suspected case of child maltreatment, their initial objectives are to evaluate and address immediate medical and psychological needs, to assess and ensure the safety of victims, and to secure the scene in order to collect and preserve evidence.
|The Roles of First Responders|
The following are the general roles of first responders:
For more detailed descriptions of the roles and the responsibilities of all the professionals involved in a community's response to child abuse and neglect, see A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice.
First responders should also be aware of their role as mandatory reporters. As of January 2008, 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands designate certain professions as being mandated to report suspected cases of child maltreatment. Eighteen States and Puerto Rico designate all persons as mandatory reporters, with 16 States and Puerto Rico also specifying certain professions.5 First responders should be aware of their State, local, agency, and professional responsibilities for reporting child abuse and neglect. To search State statutes regarding mandatory reporting and other child welfare issues, visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway website at http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/state/. For information about State child maltreatment reporting hotlines, see Appendix C, State Telephone Numbers for Reporting Suspected Child Maltreatment.
This manual builds the foundation for successful outcomes when first responders encounter incidents, including disaster situations, in which child maltreatment might be suspected. Specifically, this manual:
- Helps first responders recognize the various types of child maltreatment and the signs that may indicate that maltreatment has occurred
- Provides an overview of the initial response and investigation in cases of suspected child abuse or neglect
- Explains how first responders should prepare for and provide testimony in court for child abuse and neglect cases
- Outlines how first responders and their agencies can respond to child maltreatment cases in emergencies and disasters, including how to prepare for such situations.
First responders should recognize that not all the information in this manual necessarily pertains to their particular job duties or responsibilities. For instance, EMTs would not attempt to elicit a confession, nor would law enforcement or CPS perform a medical exam. Additionally, the scope of this manual does not cover actions to be taken either by law enforcement or by CPS caseworkers beyond their first response (e.g., follow-up interviews). First responders should respond to cases of alleged child maltreatment and conduct investigations according to their agency and jurisdictional guidelines. Also note that presenting information and suggestions in this manual does not necessarily imply endorsement by the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect or any other Federal agency, nor are they an official interpretation of Federal or other requirements.
This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway.