Crystal Swann Blackdeer is the secretary of the Child Abuse Prevention Council.
1. Can you tell us about the Leavenworth County Child Abuse Prevention Council?
Formed in 1995, the Leavenworth County Child Abuse Prevention Council is a coalition of agencies and individuals working together to prevent and address child abuse and neglect in our area through education and training, interagency collaboration and financial support to qualified efforts of member organizations.
2. The council provides free training for mandated reporters of abuse including persons licensed in the "healing arts," therapists, teachers/administrators/other school employees, KDHE child care licensees, law enforcement, EMS and firefighters, plus juvenile corrections personnel, court appointed case managers and mediators. How does the training help the reporters better identify and report on abuse?
People who work with children or frequently see "at-risk" children in their work are confronted with a wide variety of circumstances.
Sometimes it's hard to decide if what they are seeing is really abuse or neglect.
They don't want to over-report, but mandated reporters are obligated by law, and can be held liable if they fail to report what turns out to be abuse/neglect.
This training exposes people to indicators of abuse, how to report it, and what a mandated reporter's obligations are under the law.
Anyone can make a report, even anonymously, and the Department for Children and families will decide if there's a "child in need of care."
3. Many people who work with children are not mandated reporters. How can they best ensure that the kids they are exposed to feel safe to report anything that they might feel is making them uncomfortable?
Children should always feel they can talk with trusted adults about situations they're experiencing, particularly those that make them uncomfortable.
Children should be allowed to talk, and that responsible adult should REPORT if they believe a child may be abused/neglected.
Interviews for detail should only be conducted by those who have that mission and who are trained in soliciting accurate information from children.
This minimizes the trauma to the child and is most likely to spur appropriate action by service providers and, if appropriate, law enforcement/prosecution.
4. The council’s free training sessions are designed to help anyone in Leavenworth County to learn to recognize signs of abuse and neglect. What are some of the most important training tools that enable the general public to become more sensitized to the often silent cries of vulnerable children?
Mandated reporters have a very important role, but many who are not mandated are often in circumstances that allow them to see things that, if reported, could save a child's life.
Page 2 of 2 - Animal control officers, coaches, Scout leaders, church volunteers, veterinarians and many others are not mandated reporters, but they very often see children who may need help.
Even if they don't specifically see that the children are in need of care, they may see evidence of spousal abuse, or elder abuse, or animal abuse/neglect.
The fact is that in an environment that hurts, no one is safe.
All of us owe it to children (and others who cannot independently care for themselves) to provide them safe, healthy, nurturing environments.
Better for a thousand reports to be "unfounded" or "not assigned" than for ONE situation that should have been investigated to have gone unreported.
Reporting is easy -- it can be done anonymously, by phone, by email or online.
Whenever someone is in immediate danger, the best thing to do is dial 911.
5. What would the Leavenworth County Child Abuse Prevention Council most like to change about how child abuse is dealt with in the county?
Being aware of risk factors, indicators of abuse/neglect, and how to report suspected abuse/neglect are all vitally important, but as a society and a community, we have already failed if any child is being harmed.
The key is prevention. We need to create and maintain communities where we all protect children from those who may harm them.
We need to make sure that families make the connection to education and resources that help them provide the secure, nurturing, safe environment that every child deserves.
— Rimsie McConiga