The following was originally posted on Patch.com by Susan E. Block as part of a weekly series written by the attorneys of Paule, Camazine and Blumenthal, P.C. called From the Lawyer’s Desk. If you have any areas of the law that you would like discussed as part of that series, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.By law, child care professionals have a legal duty to report suspected child abuse to the Missouri Children’s Division. Medical, therapeutic, and school personnel are all included in this group of “mandated” (legally obligated) reporters. This is most commonly done by placing a call to the child abuse hot line.Ordinary citizens are not required to do so, but may also use this service.What happens next?The receiving worker makes a determination of whether to classify the report as an “investigation” or an “assessment.”An investigation requires a more serious response that may involve law enforcement as well as Division workers making a home visit within 24 hours of the report. Sexual abuse allegations would be one example of a report rising to this level.Assessment reports are usually made by workers who set up visits with the parents and children concerned. While less dramatic, having the governmental intrusion in your lives and homes is not a route that most families should initiate lightly.In other words, unless you are a mandated reporter, it is advisable to consult with a lawyer experienced in child abuse before contacting the hot line.
The law provides other ways to address abuse concerns that may have greater effectiveness and keep the government from interfering in the privacy of your life and particularly your children’s lives.
Getting competent legal advice at the critical decision-making phase may make the difference between getting needed help or becoming unnecessarily entangled in government bureaucracy.