In order to deal with the backlog of calls Los Angeles County gets about allegations of child abuse, it has decided to pilot a new system which will allow for the reporting of some of these allegations to be online.
Online reporting is not available to everyone, and can only be used by what California calls mandated reporters. These are individuals working in professions which are required by law to report any suspicions they have about child abuse. The law places a legal responsibility on these individuals to report suspicions or allegations. It is a law we don’t currently have in the UK, but it is being considered in a consultation which was launched in 2016. (We sent a tweet last night to the Department For Education to find out when the findings would be published).
The online reporting system is meant only for what the county calls ‘non-emergency’ child abuse, the idea being that life threatening and serious abuse can be dealt with faster as they become prioritised over less ‘urgent’ forms of abuse.
Here is an interesting extract from the article in The Chronicle Of Social Change:
Located south of downtown at the DCFS Emergency Response Command Post, Child Protection Hotline fielded nearly 219,000 calls of child abuse in 2016.
That’s an average of one call every 2.4 minutes to the hotline, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The total number of child abuse reports in 2016, according to DCFS documents, represented an increase of 22 percent over 2006, when about 179,000 were placed to the hotline.
According to a DCFS report, the increased number of calls to the hotline has been caused by several factors. Media attention paid to high-profile cases of abuse and neglect have driven more reports, and DCFS now has new responsibilities to field calls for groups like older foster youth and commercially sexually exploited children (who were previously were overseen by the Probation Department).
The process for using the online reporting system involves fielding calls within a framework designed firstly to work out which cases should be investigated, through a series of ten questions.
If the case meets the criteria, it will then be investigated right away, or a social worker is dispatched to follow up with the child within five days. This latter part concerns us quite a bit. We know child abuse can escalate over night, so a five day waiting period seems incredibly reckless.
If any of the mandated reporters answer yes to any one or more of the ten questions, which include queries like, is the child’s health at risk and does the alleged perpetrator have access to the child? then the report is barred from being made online and will have to be filed through the emergency hotline.
There are suggestions that the system is helping to free up the hotline and speed up responses to cases involving critical abuse.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this pilot.