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The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) today announced the launch of the State’s new mandated reporter training for all professional groups required by state law to report suspected child abuse and maltreatment. A key focus of the new training is an implicit bias component to prevent calls to the Statewide Central Register of Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR) based on race and poverty.
“We understand how important this training is for the Black and Latinx communities we serve,” said OCFS’ Acting Commissioner Suzanne Miles-Gustave. “New York State recognizes that mandated reporters provide a key defense for vulnerable children. However, a family’s race and/or lack of adequate financial resources should never be the basis for a call to the SCR. This updated training is not only a step in the right direction, it is downright necessary to put an end to the practice of punishing race and poverty.”
In addition to implicit bias training, updates also include material to explain the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on children and families to prevent inflicting additional trauma by unnecessarily subjecting a family to a child protective services investigation. The new training will also help mandated reporters identify when a family could instead be supported by directing them to culturally responsive, effective and community-based programs through OCFS’ new HEARS family line (Help, Empower, Advocate, Reassure and Support). Anyone can call 1-888-55HEARS (1-888-554-3277) Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.– 4:30 p.m.
“For years, the message to mandated reporters has been ‘when in doubt, call the SCR,’” said Lisa Ghartey Ogundimu, Deputy Commissioner of OCFS’ Division of Child Welfare and Community Services. “This has resulted in a staggering increase of abuse and maltreatment reports that not only are unwarranted in the first place, but in many cases were based solely on race and poverty. Black and Latinx populations have suffered for decades due to being disproportionately targeted by the child welfare system under these guidelines.”
The overarching theme to the new mandated reporter training revolves around the idea that ‘you can support a family without having to report a family.’ Referrals to vital necessities like food, health care and housing can make all the difference when a family simply needs to be supported rather than reported.”
The updated training will also help develop improved skills to recognize signs of abuse and maltreatment in virtual settings with the increase of online schooling and telemedicine since the pandemic. More than 50 professional groups, including teachers, social workers, child care workers, doctors and police officers, are mandated reporters, and they must complete the free, online, self-directed course by April 1, 2025. It is available in English and Spanish.
New York State Education Department Assistant Commissioner, Office of Student Support Services, Kathleen DeCataldo said, “New York State education professionals are on the front lines in detecting child maltreatment in many cases. They must rely on their training, expertise, experience, and analytical skills to objectively determine whether the facts and information they encounter establish a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment. Integrating concepts such as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and implicit bias will strengthen state, regional, and local alignment of the education and child welfare systems.”
Albany Medical Center’s Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at the Bernard and Millie Duker Children’s Hospital Chief Dr. Rebecca Butterfield said, “We are the region’s only children’s hospital and an anchor for the Albany Med Health System, connecting families to more than 40 pediatric medical specialties. We are so delighted to join OCFS today to make this incredibly important announcement about how all mandated reporters can better protect the health and well-being of children and families.”
Prevent Child Abuse New York Executive Director Tim Hathaway said, "While it is imperative that we have trained, trusted individuals available to intervene in cases where a child is actually in danger, in some cases reporting shouldn’t be the first step. This new training will help our mandated reporters explorealternative avenues to assist a family and strongly consider what community resources are available to support them. We are excited about the roll-out of this transformative training statewide and plan to share it with our colleagues across the country."
About the New York State Office of Children and Family Services:
The Office of Children and Family Services serves New York’’s public by promoting the safety, permanency and well-being of children, families and communities. The agency provides a system of family support, juvenile justice, youth development, child care and child welfare services and is responsible for programs and services involving foster care, adoption and adoption assistance, child protective services, preventive services for children and families, and protective programs for vulnerable adults.