In terms of child welfare, it is important to recognize education neglect and truancy are two different things. Educational neglect involves a failure of the parent or caregiver to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school or to provide appropriate homeschooling or needed special educational training. Educational neglect can also involve a failure of the parent or caretakers to exercise care in facilitating school attendance of a child to the extent that the child’s education has been impaired or harmed. Truancy, on the other hand, involves a child who is willfully refusing to attend school despite the parent or caretaker exercising steps to facilitate the child’s attendance. School Districts also have a responsibility to engage parents to discover and try to address underlying conditions that might lead to failure to enroll or poor attendance as part of their efforts to determine if there is possible educational neglect that should be reported, or if truancy is the issue.
Child Protective services calls a report “registered” when there is enough information in the report to meet the five criteria set by NYS law. Only after a report is registered can an investigation begin.
Should I Tell The Family (I Called The Hotline)?
You are not required by law to tell the family that you have made a report to the Hotline. In fact, CPS is mandated by law to protect your confidentiality after you make a report.
Mandated reporters can choose to tell the family that they have called the Hotline and the reasons for their decision. This disclosure may help maintain a relationship between the mandated reporter and the child‘s family, especially when there is on-going contact. By disclosing, you can maintain credibility and the trust of the family. If you want to tell the family that you made a report, you should be aware of CPS recommendations and consult with your supervisor. The following are suggestions of how to begin the disclosure to the family:
- I am a mandated reporter under NYS Law. This Law is set up to help families, not punish them. My call to the Hotline will help you get the services your family needs.
- I know you care about your family and do not want to have any problems with your child. You are trying really hard, and you could use some support. I am required by Law to call CPS in this situation. We can use the CPS person as a resource, they want to help you get the services you need.
CPS recommendations – CPS advises against telling the family IF:
- The report involves sexual abuse. The family’s knowledge of the report could impair the CPS investigation by limiting CPS’s ability to gather information from the child and/or family members.
- The family’s knowledge of the report would result in immediate danger of further abuse/neglect.
Your supervisor may have additional concerns about disclosure:
- Your agency may have a specific policy that includes disclosure to the family as part of an ongoing helping relationship.
- Your agency may prohibit disclosure to the family.
- You may need to discuss disclosure steps with a person who has experience in this area.