Colorado’s laws on required reporting of suspected child abuse must be strengthened, the state’s child protection ombudsman said in a new report Wednesday that comes after the death of 7-year-old Olivia Gant from suspected medical abuse.
The state’s “outdated” and “poorly executed” mandatory reporting laws should be changed to clarify the employer’s role in the reporting process, to set a concrete timeline in which to report suspected abuse to the state and all There is a need for standardized training for professionals. Those who are legally obligated to report abuse, Child Protection Ombudsman Stephanie Villafuerte recommended in a 7-page brief.
“For Colorado laws to be effective, and to protect children, the law must be clear about who should report, so that valuable information does not fall through the cracks and those who fail to report suspected child abuse are held accountable. could be,” the report reads.
The 2017 death of Olivia Gant exposed long-standing “fault lines” in the state’s child abuse reporting laws, Villafuerte said in an interview. Before she died, Olivia was a longtime patient at Children’s Hospital Colorado, where officials believe the girl’s mother, Kelly Turner, faked Olivia’s illnesses and tricked doctors and nurses into performing unnecessary medical procedures. helped. Turner has been charged with first-degree murder and is awaiting trial.
A Denver Post investigation this spring found that some doctors and nurses at Children’s Hospital Colorado raised concerns that Olivia was being medically abused by her mother, but more than a year after Olivia’s hospital had did not report their suspicions to the state’s human services department. Despite the state’s mandatory reporting law, which requires anyone suspected of abuse to report “immediately” to law enforcement or the state.
The children’s medical providers did nothing of the sort. Instead, the hospital investigated the concerns internally, and its internal child protection team decided there was no need to report providers’ concerns to outside authorities, the Post found. The process appeared to follow a 2016 hospital policy, which directed staff to report abuse concerns to the hospital’s internal review team rather than directly to external authorities.
This is not an unusual approach, Villafuerte said. Many institutions, such as hospitals and schools, require employees to report suspicion of abuse to an internal chain of command. This type of “institutional reporting” can help features keep track of reports, provide time and support for employees to report on the clock, and reduce duplicate reports. But it can also cause problems and delays, Villafuerte said, especially if a supervisor prevents or discourages employees from reporting suspicions of abuse, or if the internal process is cumbersome or time-consuming.
“It is not clear what the role of an institution is,” she said. “Are they the pass-through for information, or are they the arbiters of that information? And so other states have made laws. To make it clear that if you have (an internal) process, you have to persevere.” must be careful.”
Colorado’s current mandatory reporting law requires individuals in about 40 occupations, from veterinarians to pastors, to report suspected abuse to the state or law enforcement.
But the law is silent on institutional reporting, which has allowed various employers to come up with internal policies for employees who attempt to report abuse. Some employees get away with the notion that reporting their personal suspicions to a supervisor fulfills their legal duty to report abuse — but this isn’t clear in the law.
Institutional reporting is happening, Villafuerte said, without any railings in the law of how it should be handled.
“If you look at other state laws, which I’ve done, they’re pretty clear that an employee must report to a supervisor or chief administrator, at which point the role of the facility is to support the employee, not change their mind.” , “He said.
According to a 2019 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services, thirty-two states have the process of institutional reporting on the books. In nine states, institutions mandated journalists must first report suspicions directly to the state’s Child Protective Services, then notify their employer of the report. In the other nine states, institutions mandated journalists start by notifying the head of their institution, and then require that person to report to Child Protective Services.
In 17 states, the laws specifically clarify that “regardless of any policy within the organization, the obligatory reporter is not relieved of his or her responsibility to report,” according to the publication.
Villafuorte’s report found that Colorado’s mandatory reporting law also falls short in two other ways. The law does not give a fixed window of time in which mandated journalists must convey their doubts to the authorities – it just says that such reports must be made “immediately”, which is open to interpretation. Other states have set 24-, 36- or 48-hour windows for reporting, the brief stated.
There is nothing in Colorado law that requires journalists to be informed of their obligations or trained on how to recognize abuse, Villafuerte said. The professionals undergo a standardized, statewide training, which will better prepare them to meet their obligations, he added.
“The truth is, it’s not instinctual, it’s not clear when abuse and neglect happen,” she said. The signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect, while they may be very outlandish, many times they are not.”