As librarians we know that April is ‘National Poetry Month’ but did you know that it’s ‘Stress Awareness Month’ or ‘National Donate Life Month’? With so many monthly designations it’s hard to keep up. We become saturated with “awareness” and can overlook educational opportunities that are important in our profession.
April is ‘National Child Abuse Prevention Month’, a time to be aware that we all play a part in the emotional and physical well-being of the children around us. As librarians many of us are considered employed in “positions of trust” and are subjected to background checks and periodic drug screenings. But as our relationships with our communities expand we should always be aware of our expanded responsibilities. Do you meet regularly with your law enforcement agencies? Do you have a clear process for incident reporting and follow up? Can you recognize the signs of abuse in children and families? Do your local health departments offer training in this area? Are you a mandated reporter? These are things that you should be asking yourself and your administration.
Mandatory reporting efforts began as early as the 1960’s when the U.S. Children’s Bureau sponsored a conference aimed at the growing concerns around the effects of child abuse. Between 1963 and 1967 every state and the District of Columbia passed a child abuse reporting law. But as awareness and conditions expanded so did policies and statutes and by 1987 almost every state included sexual assault as part of the abuse, as well as mental and emotional abuse as well as neglect. (1)
Mandatory Reporting is becoming a hot topic in light of recent high profile abuse cases. Here in the District of Columbia, where I am a librarian, city council legislation passed in 2012 requires any adult who knows – or has reason to believe – that a child age 16 or younger is being abused is required to report the incident to the police or the city’s Child and Family Services Agency. This is a change from mandatory reporters being strictly “positions of trust”. In the wake of the Penn State scandal, More than 100 bills on the process of reporting of child abuse or neglect were introduced in 30 states and the District, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, with 18 states instituting a universal reporting law. (2)
Take time this month to be proactive, make yourself aware of the laws and statutes of your state. Below are some valuable resources that can help inform you and your staff, as well as spark conversation between your library and other service agencies.
Resources to consider:
The Child Welfare Information Gateway promotes the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, youth, and families by connecting child welfare, adoption, and related professionals as well as the general public to information, resources, and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse and neglect, out-of-home care, adoption, and more. Make sure to click on their “state specific resource” link. They also produce valuable fact sheets and handouts.
Founded in 1959 by Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, Childhelp® is a leading national non-profit organization dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect.
The Child Abuse Prevention Center is a national and international training, education, research and resource center dedicated to protecting children and building healthy families.
Family Resource Information, Education and Network Development Services (FRIENDS), the National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CBCAP), provides training and technical assistance to Federally funded CBCAP Programs. This site serves as a resource to those programs and to the rest of the Child Abuse Prevention community.
Don’t forget to reach out to your local Health Department and Child Services Agencies, they will have the most recent and local information for your community.
(1) Hutchison, E. D. (1993). Mandatory reporting laws: child protective case finding gone awry?. Social Work, 38 56-63
(2) Craig, T. (2012, Nov 16). Council advances bill expanding rules for reporting child sex abuse. The Washington Post. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1152062603?accountid=46320
Lesley Mason, ALA ALSC Committee Member, Library Services to Special Populations and Their Caregivers and Children’s Librarian at DC Public Library