Wednesday, November 14, 2007

YOU ARE A MANDATED REPORTER


Even though there has been no evidence that Rowan Ford endured abuse, now is as good a time as any to remind people that they are mandated reporters.

We know that teachers, doctors, daycare workers, etc. are mandated reporters. Duh. But, when I went to the Department of Social Services in Jefferson City for a child abuse case a couple of years ago, workers there wanted to emphasize that ANYONE WHO HAS A CHILD IN THEIR PRESENCE is a mandated reporter.

That means if you are driving a minivan full of children, and you notice something odd, you're supposed to report it. Babysitters, carpoolers, room mothers are ALL mandated reporters. The same goes for Sunday school teachers.

Now, I suppose that's really hard to enforce, but it's probably DSS's way of covering themselves and driving the point home. Nonetheless, I think it could be an extra nudge someone might need to "get involved".

KSPR found out there's a decent chance Rowan Ford has a file at the Department of Social Services. Her school confirmed someone from there had hotlined her. I'm very surprised that no one else has reported this yet because (honestly) there are enough signs that might lead one to ask questions concerning abuse. Notice I didn't say there were signs of abuse, though. Anyway, I made the request, and hopefully we'll hear something before 3 days...I'll keep you posted.

But remember, get involved. Don't be afraid to get in someone's business. When it comes to kids, it only hurts when people don't.


Child Abuse and Neglect Hotlines:
The toll-free number is 1-800-392-3738. (ONLY WORKS IF CALLING FROM MISSOURI)
Persons calling from outside Missouri should dial 573-751-3448.
Text telephone number: 1-800-669-8689.

11 comments:

SNIDERMAN said...

Even if DSS has a kid file... it doesn't mean they found anything. That doesn't mean something didn't happen... it means that at that brief moment in time when a case worker went out... most everything was with in normal operating parameters.

Do you have any idea HOW MANY kids are on file in SW MO? Divide by case workers, or foster families, or family court judges or... its a culture of abuse.

Saw a great shirt the other day... "Men should beat their meat, not women and children".

If only.

Michelle said...

Let me follow up with what you're saying because I want to make clear that I'm not accusing anyone of abuse or any agency of negligence...absolutely not going there!

You're right, all a file means is that someone hotlined.

Since Rowan was living at the home with her mother, Colleen, it would appear that if there was a file, DSS did not find evidence of abuse to take her out of the home.

Even DSS will tell you that it cannot possibly prevent things like this from happening across the state, but I know that's difficult to hear for those who take their mandated reporting responsibilities seriously and then don't see the results they believe should happen.

Teachers have such great insight about children. If you think about it, they see kids more than their parents do...they've been trained, and they notice odd things like Rowan coming to school early, her initial distrust of men, her uncombed hair, her extreme sadness when her older sister moved out of the home...NOT outright signs of abuse, I suppose, but enough to make one wonder what was going on at her home.

The feeling I get is that many of the teachers are frustrated there...and will be venting their anger towards DSS...

I bet if DSS has a file on her, it will be small...and probably not too terribly telling...nonetheless, someone in Stella will be wondering if there was something else they could've done.

SNIDERMAN said...

No, I didn't think there was an accusation. You're good.

Know that reporting abuse is supposed to be confidential, too.

So, even though you think you know your neighbor... but your suspect that Billy Bob is beating the snot out of his kids... you can call on that without fear of retribution.

When our government and social justice systems want to fund the agencies that help prevent this... with reasonable pay for social workers, therapists, etc... then maybe the system will have a chance.

For now, it's like Sisyphus rolling the rock up hill.

Anonymous said...

Head lice.
Big story.

anonymous #1 said...

A 35 page case file from the Missouri Department of Social Services shows two State Abuse Hotline calls were made on behalf of Rowan Ford over the past 7 years. An investigation by the state scored her risk of neglect moderate and her risk of abuse low.

Ford was found dead November 9 in a small sinkhole in McDonald County after being missing for 6 days. The suspects in her rape and murder, David Spears and Christopher Collings, were charged last week with first degree murder, forcible rape, and statutory rape.

The first hotline call was made in March of 2000; the second call in January of 2006. Investigators were sent to the home after both calls, but the file shows they had no reason to suspect abuse and no cases were formally opened.

Both calls stemmed from what one hotline caller called "chronic lice" and hygiene issues.

The first call occured when Rowan was living with her mother Colleen and a male in the house identified as Adam Chichanowski. The investigator of the first call stated that there were "no observed indicators of family violence. Colleen states she was previously involved in several abusive relatiosnhips."

At the time of the second report Rowen was living with her mother and step-father David Spears.

"Rowan has had chronic lice. She was sent home today due to head lice. Last five absences was due to head lice. It is a monthly problem, parents do treat the problem. Reporters think that the parents are not cleaning the environment," the second report reads.

A case investigator visited Rowan's school and spoke with Triway Elementary's school nurse. The nurse indicated that Rowan was sent home at least every month with lice problems and contact had been made with Rowan's parents to correct the problem.

At one point Rowan was asked several questions. The investigator wrote: "Ms. Ford came and sat down. I observed her to be quite (sic) and shy. She explained where she lived in Stella and said her mom has fix her head lice problem. She told me who her mother was and that she worked at Wal-Mart. I asked if she had a sister and she said yes, but she is at home today...I observed this little girl to be dressed appropriately to the weather conditions outside."

In a report summary in 2006, Rowan's neglect risk was scored moderate, her abuse risk was scored low, and her total risk level was scored moderate.

The investigator concluded the "family was bonded to each other" and said there was good communication among family members. The case worker from the 2006 visit no longer works at DSS.

Anonymous said...

From the story that someone just cut & pasted to this comment section, I have a real hard time blaming the DSS on this one.

Look, there are real bad guys on this case. We know who they are. It doesn't have to be another DSS witch hunt this time around.

Sometimes things just are what they are. I know the media has gotten all loaded up and ready for bear on this, but they may have to just calm down on this angle a tad.

I like aggressive reporting, but I don't like jumping the gun. To be fair, I certainly felt like some of the news reporting on the "DSS File" were fairly ominous sounding. And I almost sensed a tinge of disappointment from some when there wasn't much in the file...as if they wanted this to be an even more senseless tragedy.

Michelle said...

The point I was trying to make is that now is as good a time as any to know that you're a mandated reporter.

There are people out there who tell me they wish they would've made a call...

This post is not blaming DSS. That was not its intention.

I just have to say this, though. If you would've driven out to Stella and talked with some of the people in that town...you would've walked away wondering if this girl had been living in questionable circumstances. And I think that's fair to say.

Jason said...

It's sad that our society has reached the point that people are more interested in staying out of things than taking the step to help a child or a woman or even a man who is in an abusive situation.

If I knew someone was harming a child then I would hotline without a second thought. I can't stand the idea of the next Rowan Ford incident even though I know it's inevitable.

Todd said...

Michelle,

I know that you also have viewers in Arkansas and wanted to give the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline. The number is 1-800-482-5964.

Thanks

Geoff Brown said...

There's a good resource for teachers who don't know how to approach a child in their class who might be showing signs of child abuse. Teachers can rehearse a conversation with a possible child abuse victim at www.hownottotalk.com/abuse. There's a free trial version with 120+ page, and teachers can also do the full version for CEU credit. Teachers often make serious mistakes when talking to abused kids -- such as overemotionalizing, making unwarranted assumptions, and casting blame. This can drive the child back into silence and/or jeopardize any subsequent investigation. Remember, teachers are mandated reporters -- they must report any "reasonable suspicion" of child abuse! Maybe this will save some lives in the future...

Diaspora said...

Just remember, make sure there is 'reasonable suspicion' before you report. CYS came to my door today. Over an allergic reaction my daughter had over some bug bites. Her Sunday School teacher reported it as bruising.

My daughter is, if anything, spoiled. She has never had a bruise that was not playground inflicted.

So now, the next time her father takes me to court to get out of paying child support (and he has tried that), his lawyer will dig this up I'm sure.

I'm so mortified over these false allegations, I don't even want to go back to the same church that I've attended for five years. Her school and doctor will also be questioned so it will be on her records there as well.