Be Alert to Signs of Child Abuse
Norvell, Kim, St. Joseph News-Press
After Bishop Robert Finn's conviction last week, some might be wondering if they're required, by law, to report suspicions of child abuse.
Joyce Estes, executive director of the Northwest Missouri Children's Advocacy Center, said the law covers those who have any legal responsibility over the child while he or she is in their care.
That typically includes teachers, clergy members, social workers, law enforcement and any health professional for which the child is engaged in examination, care, treatment or research. The definition of the law " RSMo 210.115 " lists 29 individuals who will be charged with a misdemeanor if it is found they suspected child abuse, but did not report it to the Missouri Children's Division.
"You don't have to be able to prove it, you just have to have a reasonable suspicion,' Ms. Estes said. "The child may have told you something, you may see marks on the child, or the child may be acting really strange.'
To report suspected child abuse, an individual is required to call the Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline at (800) 392-3738 at the Missouri Children's Division in Jefferson City. The 24-hour hotline will take down as much information the reporter can provide, including the child's age, where the child lives and who is responsible for him or her, and whether or not the child is believed to be in immediate danger.
The report sets in motion an investigation by the Children's Division in the child's county, and if the report is found to be substantiated, law enforcement becomes involved.
Buchanan County Sheriff Mike Strong said of the reports that his agency has helped investigate, about 50 percent came from teachers, with parents coming in a close second.
"Historically in my experience, a lot of the cases in child abuse " not only sexual abuse, but child abuse " are mostly reported by teachers because they spend the most time with them,' he said.
In 2010, Children's Divisions across Northwest Missouri received 7,770 calls to the Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline " 544 of which were found to be true. …