Transcript: Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect for University of Maine Volunteers

As a volunteer, if you work with youth, Maine law imposes mandatory reporting if you know, or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused and neglected.

The University of Maine is committed to providing a safe environment for leading, learning and community outreach. To re-affirm its commitment to provide a safe environment for minors, the University of Maine adopted an institutional responsibility to report. Everyone at the University, no matter what their role or job duties, must promptly report suspected child abuse or neglect to the University point of contact who then shall cause a report to be made.

Although you are asked to make a report, it is not the role of the volunteer or program staff to conduct an investigation. The following slides will provide definitions and warning signs to look for.

Physical Abuse is defined as injury inflicted on a child by a caregiver by other than accidental means. Physical signs can include: lacerations, fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, severe bruising or great bodily harm.

Warning signs can include the following: unexpected burns, bruises, broken bones, black eyes, or fading bruises. The child may seem frightened of parents or adults, or may not want to go home.

Sexual Abuse is the subjection of a child to a criminal sexual act or threatened act by a person responsible for the child’s care or has a significant relationship to the child or is in a position of authority. Examples include intercourse, sexual contact, exploitation or permitting, allowing or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution.

Warning signs may include: difficulty walking or sitting, bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge, refusal to change clothes or engage in physical activity, pregnancy and avoiding certain adults or situations.

Emotional abuse is defined as harm to the child’s psychological capacity or emotional stability evidenced by an observable and substantial impairment of the child’s functioning. It can be exhibited by severe anxiety, depression or aggression.

Warning signs often include

  • Extreme shifts in behavior
  • Overly compliant, demanding or passive/aggressive
  • In appropriate adult behavior
  • Parenting other children
  • Infantile behavior

It can include

  • head-banging or rocking,
  • delayed physical or emotional development,
  • or attempted suicide.

Neglect is the inability, failure or refusal of the child’s caregiver to provide necessary care, food, clothing, shelter, medical, dental or mental health care or appropriate supervision.

Warning signs often include youth consistently being dirty and/or severe body odor. The youth may lack sufficient clothing or lack needed medical, dental or vision care. Consistently hungry or stealing money or food may also be a sign.

None of these signs prove child abuse has taken place, but if they occur repeatedly, or you notice a pattern, or a combination of warning signs, it may be cause to take a closer look at the situation. Which leads us to how to report a suspected incident.

As a volunteer with any University of Maine program, you are required to take steps to protect the minor. This means you must report in you witness or suspect child abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities. The following protocol should be followed:

  • If you feel the situation is urgent, or the child is in eminent danger, contact 911 immediately.
  • To report suspected child abuse or neglect, you should contact DHHS as soon as possible but within 24 hours. If you feel you need help in making the report, contact your staff liaison or your supervisor.
  • In addition it is your obligation to notify the University. You can contact the Office of Equal Opportunity on campus or contact your staff liaison or supervisor to assist you with this.

Given your role, it is important to know your program’s health and safety requirements regarding: supervision of minors, staff and participant interactions, physical environment, accident and illness prevention and management. Be sure you are familiar with the specific requirements for your program. As the University strives to maintain safe and respectful interactions between adults and minors no matter the situation, here are some tips on how to maintain appropriate physical boundaries, especially if it’s necessary to touch minors:

  • Avoid touching parts of the body normally concealed by a swimsuit.
  • Side-by-side or shoulder-to-shoulder hugs are OK if the child needs to be support or comforted, but do not initiate frontal hugs and avoid having a child sit on the lap of a volunteer or staff person.
  • Do no use physical punishment or withhold necessities such as food, water or shelter to modify a child’s behavior.
  • Adults and minors should not use cameras, smart phones or other recording devices in bathrooms or locker rooms.
  • Generally, an adult should not be alone with a child.

Thank you for taking the time to view this session on mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. As a University of Maine volunteer we appreciate your commitment to provide this safe environment for minors. For more information, contact the University Office of Equal Opportunity, your supervisor, or staff liaison.

Office of Equal Opportunity
101 North Stevens Hall
Phone: 207.581.1226

Department of Health and Human Services
Child and Family Services
To report child abuse or neglect: 1-800-452-1999