July 4th Remembrance-Children and Military Families


July 4th is an important day of remembrance, celebrating freedom. It’s also a great time to remember and say thanks to the U.S. Armed Forces and their children and families for the sacrifices they’ve made to help protect that freedom.

Close to half the men and women in all branches of the military have children and many of those children are of school age. Those children and parents often face many challenges during deployment and in peacetime. They face exposure to violence and traumatic experiences through things such as bullying at school or domestic violence at home.

In a recent article, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta talks about the challenges facing children in military families citing examples such as “the children of a career service member will move an average of eight times during their school years. They will spend long periods away from their parents, and they will move between school systems that differ in quality.” It is noted in Bullying and the Military Child that these frequent movements can make children especially vulnerable to bullying because they are constantly re-establishing identities.

In addition, these children and their families are also at higher risk for exposure to violence through incidents of domestic violence. A few years ago, the New York Times shared a series on what can happen when war veterans return home. There were several devastating stories of domestic violence situations that escalated and turned deadly for the family.

The important thing to remember is that people, communities, organizations, and the government are really working to raise awareness and provide support to families in order to build hope and work to prevent and reduce risks. A few recent examples in the news include:

Coming Together Around Military Families ®: an online newsletter from Military Family Projects at ZERO TO THREE


The National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families shares some great new resources for veterans and active military personnel and their families.

Experts get elementary to help children in military families


A program implemented in six elementary schools at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is placing mental-health experts in classrooms to help children in military families cope when their parents are deployed.

Mental health group urges increased assistance for military, families


A new report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness said the government needs to fill the gaps in mental health coverage for America’s soldiers and veterans, who – along with their families – face high rates of mental illness.

Sean Farnham aiming to bring basketball to military children


Sean Farnham, college basketball analyst for ESPN, has started a foundation, Hoops From Home. It is an organization that, on the surface, is designed to bring basketball camps to kids living on military bases. The hope is that it will provide kids with an outlet to deal with the stress of having a deployed parent and to help them build relationships.

Finally, as you celebrate the 4th this year, please remember our troops and their families!

Teen Dating Violence: An Overview of Boys and Girls

Teen Dating Violence (TDV)

We opened the month in support of Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month, and this week we’d like to talk more about how teen dating violence affects girls and boys. Because “among adolescents aged 12 to 21, almost 3 in 10 have experienced violence in opposite-sex relationships,” and according to Womenshealth.gov “in the United States, teens and young women experience the highest rates of relationship violence. In fact, 1 in 10 female high-schoolers say they have been physically abused by a dating partner in the past year.”

The Cycle of Violence

Although teen dating violence is a problem itself, it is helpful to look at violence as a whole to better understand why, how, and when it happens. One way of looking at the subject of violence is through what is called the “cycle of violence,” which looks at the different phases of abuse. This cycle is about controlling another person within the boundaries of a relationship, and it can be physical, emotional, mental, or even financial.

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Hunting the Predator

Originally posted on Justice For Life:


Why the ‘Johns’ aren’t getting prosecuted – Fox…, posted with vodpod

Human trafficking is a global problem. But it’s quickly gaining local media attention as people learn how prevalent the problem is in cities such as Atlanta, Phoenix and New York, among others. Local law enforcement agencies say it is more challenging than ever to crack down on the ‘johns.’ “The issue with prosecuting buyers — or ‘johns’ as some people call them — typically they’re not known to the victim,” said Cobb County Police Detective Carol Largent. “They may not know a first name, a last name; know what they drive, where they live. They may not be able to give us any information about them.”

Read more at Elizabeth Prann’s Fox News article: Human Trafficking: Hunting the Predator.

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USA Today’s Bullying Article Is Brutally Honest

Originally posted on Bullying Stories:

Bruce Kugler, a contributing writer for USA Today wrote a very strong article on bullying titled “Bullying in USA: Are we defenseless?” In this straightforward article, Mr. Kugler brings up the latest victims of the bullying issue and asks the question to us all in his article title.

What’s the answer? At one point in the article, his daughter, after he tells her of a recent tragedy tells him that “It’s Not Going To Get Better”, changing the current catch phase of the anti-bullying movement. It is a sad, but honest article of  some of the current cases of bullycide and victimization due to bullying.

In the article, Mr. Kugler shares a story of Amanda Cummings, who recently committed suicide due in part to bullying. He shares:

“On Dec. 27, a 15-year-old high school sophomore named Amanda Cummings walked onto the main boulevard in her neighborhood and, according to witnesses…

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Safe Start Center:

Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Affects Development in Young Children

Originally posted on The Chart:

Children who have severe traumatic brain injuries early in life may have impaired cognitive development and long-term intellectual ability as they get older, according to two small studies published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. 

The first study compared the social, intellectual, and behavioral functions of 53 children who had experienced a traumatic brain injury before the age of three, most of which were the result of falls, with 27 children of the same age who had never sustained a TBI. 

The authors write that while a severe TBI was associated with lowered intellectual function, the socioeconomic status of the child’s family may be a more powerful predictor of the child’s intellectual development.  They cannot fully explain why, but they suggest lower socioeconomic status, high parental stress and low parental involvement has an effect on a child’s recovery. 

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Traumatic Brain Injury and Juvenile Justice

We just wanted to share some information about a recent webinar conducted by Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Federal Traumatic Brain Injury program on Dec. 13, 2011. The webinar focused on the growing problems associated with Children and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in the Juvenile Justice System.

The overall goals of the webinar were to

  • Develop an understanding of the issues experienced by juveniles with TBI, including under-identification, symptoms, limited access to treatment, and recidivism;
  • Become acquainted with approaches to identification and treatment, including the critical role of partnerships; and
  • Review preliminary data showing impact of interventions and consider next steps.

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When a Parent Is Incarcerated: A Primer for Social Workers

Checkout this new pub from the Annie E. Casey Foundation!

When a Parent Is Incarcerated: A Primer for Social Workers.

Description from website:

The goal of this publication is to provide relevant and practical information for public child welfare agencies and social workers when working with incarcerated parents and their children, including a chapter on immigration. This primer also outlines the many compelling reasons why child welfare agencies should develop programs and policies specifically to address the needs of this subset of children in the child welfare system.”

Child abuse, the holidays and mandated reporting

Right now we are at the height of the holiday season, full of fun, food, and festivities. However, it also includes increased stress, especially during intense family situations, and it isn’t uncommon for child abuse rates and reports to increase during this time. A recent article from Tri-Cities News in Tennessee touches on this problem of how with the holidays comes an increased pressure and strain, which often leads to an increase in exposure to violence and possibly incidence of abuse. WOWKTV 12 in Charleston, South Carolina also shares a report about domestic violence increasing over the holidays and endangering children and families. These situations demonstrate why it is so important that people are aware of what abuse is, the signs to look for, and when and where to report it.

So keeping this and the holidays in mind, we want to finish our discussion about mandated reporting by remembering why this topic is so important.

Looking back over the past couple of weeks, we:

  1. Opened with a discussion about the Penn State scandal.
  2. Looked at what mandated reporting is and who is responsible for reporting.
  3. Examined the role of reporting in systems and the barriers to reporting
  4. And finally, discussed mandated reporting in practice and its implications.

All of this is important because of the effect that abuse and neglect on children who experience it. Futures Without Violence recently highlighted the new Center for Disease Control (CDC) National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, or NISVS. The report’s findings show that…

…on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, based on a survey conducted in 2010. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men.

Similarly, early this week, the United Nations (UN) adopted further protocol for protection children from violence and abuse. Both of these recent developments reiterate how important it is for nations to be vigilant about understanding abuse and neglect and how they can work to clarify the definition of abuse, reporting laws, and what needs to be done to put those laws into practice. Recognizing and further addressing the problem of abuse and maltreatment shows the United States’ commitment to protecting and giving children a voice. This makes the new congressional dialogue about mandated reporting statutes even more timely.

So as we enter the New Year, we should remember the importance of protecting children against all kinds of violence. Having proper legislation in place, like mandated reporting laws, is only the beginning. The next step is to train people, raise awareness, and encourage people to embrace change.

Mandatory Reporting: Implications, Meanings, and Practice

We’ve been talking a great deal about mandated reporting the past few weeks expanding our knowledge about the topic, drilling down into some of the specifics, and thinking through some of the barriers for professionals and systems.  Now we’ve come to what the implications of that reporting might be for mandated professionals, families, individuals, and the children affected.

Since the Penn State scandal became public knowledge, there has been a firestorm of opinion and media and legislative activity across the United States. States are responding by reviewing current mandatory reporting laws and reinforcing who is responsible for reporting abuse and when they should be reporting. There is some individual outcry that everyone should be required to be a mandated reporter and others are opposed to the expansion of legislation, citing it will cause more harm than good. But, overall there is a general agreement that reporting laws are necessary but clarification is essential for them to be carried out properly.

Nancy Fagan, LCSW, a child-welfare specialist with Jewish Family and Children Services, wrote an opinion piece that reiterates the view point that everyone has a clear ethical and legal responsibility to report abuse, but that those responsibilities must be clarified and outlined.  Another writer from the Michigan CASA blog believes even more extremely that “when there is even a question or an inkling of abuse,” that you must assume that abuse is occurring until you are proven otherwise.

On the other end of the spectrum, in a November 27th opinion piece for the Hartford Courant, Joette Katz, the commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families and former State Supreme Court Justice, said that she was against requiring everyone to become a mandated reporter. The piece cites that studies have not proven that extensive reporting laws have even helped to reduce the incidence or prosecution rate of abuse cases and in fact can increase the prevalence of spurious reports which take away from the investigation of legitimate cases being reported.

So in order to understand the implications of mandated reporting, one has to think about their own understanding about the subject. In a recent lecture on child protection laws, Margaret Lynch Professor of Community Pediatrics, King’s College, gave a lecture at the University College London on child protection laws, and as part of the lecture she provided an exercise that required participants to look at the subject of reporting from personal, public, and professional perspectives and confront their own understanding about the subject. One of the scenarios asked participants whether they would be suspicious of the idea of a father cuddling with his 11-year-old daughter in bed after she’s had a scare. Each person had a very different understanding of what should have been done or how they should have responded from a reporting perspective.

This scenario is a clear example of the implications of mandated reporting legislation. When presented with a possibly scenario of abuse, how do people respond? How do you know when it is abuse or when it’s not? In a room full of policy makers, doctors, and advocates every person had a different understanding about the presented scenario. They each would interpret legislation and guidelines differently. So do states push forward with the mindset that everyone should report if they have any reason to suspect abuse or should they follow the Commissioner’s advice for targeting reporting laws and cautioning guidelines?

A study published in Clinical Pediatrics in 2010, by Benjamin H. Levy and Kathryn Crowell, Child Abuse Experts Disagree About the Threshold for Mandated Reporting, attempted to see if setting forth guidelines for using reasonable suspicion for reporting abuse might help to create an overall threshold for the context of reporting abuse. However, they found that there really wasn’t any guidance that helped to determine the interpretation of the meaning of abuse. The study concluded that experts even showed a wide range of variation in defining that suspicion. Basically, there’s absolutely no consensus on how even experts can interpret suspicion. This and other studies also discuss that abuse investigations themselves can be just as traumatic as any suspected abuse, so there is no need to put a child through the trauma of the reporting process on an “inkling” of suspicion. This may especially be the case if everyone is a mandated reporter because they’ll start reporting anything because they’re afraid of facing penalties for not reporting.  If experts are not even clear about what reporting laws mean then it may be even more difficult for the average person to know what to look for as well.

Looking back at the exercise about child protection, we just have to keep in mind that everyone has an identity affected by their life experiences, beliefs, and culture that impact their understanding of abuse. The implications of mandated reporting laws can have a strong impact on everyone involved in the reporting process. So, this must be kept in mind as states review their laws and as people understand what abuse is and what constitutes reasonable suspicion for reporting.

While it isn’t always clear what is meant by “reasonable suspicion,” there are signs that you can look out for whether you are a practitioner, parent, teacher, or individual. Prevent Child Abuse America suggests the following:

What You Can Do: Recognize the Warning Signs


The behavior of children may signal abuse or neglect long before any change in physical appearance. Some of the signs may include:

  • Nervousness around adults
  • Aggression toward adults or other children
  • Inability to stay awake or to concentrate for extended periods
  • Sudden, dramatic changes in personality or activities
  • Unnatural interest in sex
  • Frequent or unexplained bruises or injuries
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor hygiene

They also provide a webpage that lists the steps to report and where to actually go to report.

What you can do: Report Suspected Abuse or Neglect


In addition the following website provides some guidelines for what reporters can expect and how to respond:


If a child discloses that he or she has been abused by someone, it is important that you listen to them most of all.

•   Investigate
•   Ask leading questions (a question that suggests the answer or contains the information the questioner is looking for – That man touched you, didn’t he?)
•   Make promises
•   Notify the parents or the caretaker

•   Provide a safe environment (be comforting, welcoming, and a good listener).
•   Tell the child it was not his/her fault
•   Listen carefully
•   Document the child’s exact quotes
•   Be supportive, not judgmental
•   Know your limits
•   Tell the truth and make no promises
•   Ask ONLY four questions
•   What happened?
•   Who did this to you?
•   Where were you when this happened?
•   When did this happen?
•   Asking any additional questions may contaminate a case!

Report it!
•   Call your local law enforcement agency
•   Call your local Child Protective Services Agency
•   Call the 24-Hour Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline and we will connect you to the appropriate agency.

Questions that will be asked when you call

  1. The name, address and age of the child.
  2. The name and address of the child’s parent, guardian or other persons having custody of the child.
  3. The nature and extent of the abuse or neglect.
  4. Any evidence of previous incidences.
  5. Any other information which may be helpful in establishing the cause of the child’s abuse or neglect and the identity of the perpetrator.

You do not need to have all of the above information when you call to make a report, but the more accurate information you can provide, the better equipped the offices will be to assess the child’s risk.

We’ve also included some further resources below that can help reporters clarify reporting laws and some further signs that you can look for if you suspect a child might be abused:

Prevent Child Abuse America


Child Abuse and Neglect Recognizing and Preventing Child Abuse


Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws


Mandated Reporting: How many could have been spared?

Allegations of sexual assaults on children at Penn State have occupied the headlines since former football coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested Nov. 5.

Even more disturbing than the salacious details and the apparent cover-up, are the numerous missed opportunities for reporting Sandusky’s alleged criminal behavior. People required by law to report child maltreatment, abuse and assault – and had suspicions or directly observed Sandusky’s inappropriate behavior – failed to do so.

According to testimonies to the grand jury:

•In 2006 or 2007, a wrestling coach walked in on Sandusky and a middle school boy “lying on their sides, in physical contact, face to face on a mat” at a local high school. The wrestling coach found it strange, but didn’t report the incident.

•An assistant principal and head football coach at one victim’s high school described Sandusky as “clingy” and “needy” with the boys in the program and found his behavior suspicious. He reported the behavior only after the mother of the victim called the school to report Sandusky sexually assaulted her son.

•The most publicized instance of flawed reporting was in 2002 when a 28-year-old graduate assistant said he witnessed Sandusky raping a boy, who looked to be about 10 years old, in the shower area of one of the athletic buildings. The graduate assistant told his father, who encouraged him to tell the Penn State head football coach. The coach then reported the incident to the athletic director who pulled in the university’s senior vice president for finance and business. The University Police, or any other law enforcement agency, were never notified.

•In 2000, a janitor witnessed Sandusky performing sexual acts on a boy in the shower in the Lasch building. He told his supervisor, who told him who he should report the incident. He never did.

We can’t help but to think what might have been different, how many boys could have been spared had just one of those people reported their observations or suspicions to the proper authorities, in a timely fashion.

There are federal and state laws that require individuals of certain professions to report instances of child abuse and assault. These laws identify professions with frequent contact with children to determine who are considered mandated reporters.

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, about 48 states and D.C. mandate social workers, teachers and other school personnel, physicians and other health care workers, mental health professionals, child care providers, medical examiners or coroners and law enforcement officers to report child maltreatment.

The specifics of the law vary from state to state, including what can be reported and when. But Pennsylvania law specifically requires that “when a staff member reports abuse…the person in charge of the school or institution has the responsibility and legal obligation to report or cause such a report to be made by telephone and in writing within 48 hours to the Department of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

The grand jury interviewed eight victims, but who knows how many more Sandusky may have sexually assaulted. As the grand jury found, through his work with The Second Mile, “Sandusky had access to hundreds of boys, many of whom were vulnerable due to their social situations.”

Had everyone in the numerous situations done their mandated duty and reported the alleged abuse, this situation may have had a different outcome. Some have lost their jobs because of their failure to do what’s right – and what’s legally required. Since the failure to report is a misdemeanor in some states, time will tell if these people will face criminal charges.

Though the Sandusky case revolves around sexual abuse, mandated reporters are expected to report instances of other maltreatment as well, including physical and emotional abuse and neglect. And the high percentage of reports that are eventually determined unfounded, show that there are different questions and concerns about the act of reporting. There are many grey areas that we hope to explore through research and discussions with you.

Throughout the month, we will take a look at mandated reporting on all of our social media outlets and our website. Please join us on Facebook, LinkedIn and our website for resources and ongoing discussion.


MSNBC: Grand jury report offers graphic account of allegations against Sandusky (Includes copy of report)


Child Welfare Information Gateway
Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws


Children’s Bureau Child Maltreatment: 2009 report



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