Georgia Reporting Laws
- If a person is required to report child abuse pursuant to this subsection because that person attends to a child pursuant to such person’s duties as a member of the staff, as an employee or volunteer at a hospital, school, social agency, or similar facility, that person shall notify the person in charge of the facility, or the designated delegate thereof, and the person so notified shall report or cause to be made in accordance with this Code section.
- A staff member, an employee or volunteer who makes a report to the person designated pursuant to this paragraph shall be deemed to have fully complied with this subsection. Under no circumstances shall any person in charge of such hospital, school, agency, or facility, or the designated delegate thereof, to whom such notification has been made exercise any control, restraint, modification, or make other change to the information provided by the reporter, although each of the aforementioned persons may be consulted prior to the making of a report and may provide any additional, relevant, and necessary information when making the report.
- An oral report shall be made immediately, but in no case later than 24 hours from the time there is reasonable cause to believe a child has been abused, by telephone or otherwise and followed by a report in writing, if requested, to a child welfare agency providing protective services, as designated by the Department of Human Services, or, in the absence of such agency, to an appropriate police authority of district attorney.
- If a report of child abuse is made to the Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) or independently discovered by DFCS, and DFCS has reasonable cause to believe such report is true or the report contains any allegation or evidence of child abuse. Then DFCS shall immediately notify the appropriate police authority or district attorney.
- Such reports shall contain the names and addresses of the child and the child’s parents or caretakers, if known, the child’s age, the nature and extent of the child’s injuries, including any evidence of previous injuries, and any other information that the reporting person believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injuries and the identity of the perpetrator.
- Photographs of the child’s injuries to be used as documentation in support of allegations by hospital staff employees or volunteers, physicians, law enforcement, personnel, school officials, or staff employees or volunteers of legally mandated public or private child protective agencies may be taken without the permission of the child’s parent or guardian. Such photographs shall be made available as soon as possible to the chief welfare agency providing protective services and to the appropriate police authority.
Source: The Georgia Center of Child Advocacy
Myths and Concerns of Reporting
Debunking the myths behind reporting should help put your mind at ease if you need to report child abuse.
- It’s not my business to interfere in someone else’s family. Your interference may be the only chance they have. The effects of child abuse are life-long, affecting future relationships, self-esteem, and sadly putting even more children at risk of abuse as the cycle continues. Help break the cycle of child abuse.
- What if I break up a family? Just because a child abuse report is initiated it does not mean a child is automatically removed from the home - unless the child is clearly in danger. The priority in child protective services is keeping children in the home. Support such as parenting classes, anger management or other resources may be offered first to parents if safe for the child.
- They will know it was me. Not true.Reporting is anonymous. In most places, you do not have to give your name when you report child abuse. The child abuser cannot find out who made the report of child abuse.
- I’m probably overreacting. If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong, it is better to be safe than sorry. Even if you don’t see the whole picture, others may have noticed as well, and a pattern can help identify child abuse that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks.
Making your voice heard when reporting child abuse
Reporting child abuse can bring up a lot of difficult emotions and uncertainty. You may ask yourself if you're doing the right thing, or question if your voice will even be heard. Here are some tips for communicating effectively in difficult situations:
- Be as specific as you can. Instead of saying, "The parents are not dressing their children right," say something like, "I saw the child running outside three times last week in subzero weather without a jacket or hat. I saw him shivering and uncomfortable. He seemed to want to come inside." However, remember that it is not your job to "prove" abuse or neglect. If suspicions are all you have, you should report those as well.
- Understanding the outcome is not important. Due to confidentiality laws in the U.S., unless you are a mandated reporter in an official capacity, you probably won't be updated by Child Protective Services (CPS) about the results of their investigation. The family may not broadcast that they have been mandated services, either—but that doesn't mean they are not receiving them.
- Continue to call and report new situations. Each child abuse report is a snapshot of what is going on in the family. The more information that you can provide, the better the chance of getting the best care for the child.