POSTED: Saturday, September 21, 2013 - 7:00am
UPDATED: Saturday, September 21, 2013 - 7:04am
BATON ROUGE, LA — Representatives from the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are spreading the word about child abuse to schools across the state.
Child Welfare workers began visits to public school systems and individual schools in August, as part of an outreach program to train teachers and administrators, who are mandated reporters of child abuse, on how to report suspected abuse, explain how DCFS handles abuse reports through its centralized intake system and bring school personnel up to date on a new training requirement for mandated reporters.
"Teachers and school administrators are on the front lines of child abuse awareness," said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier. "They see the children in their classrooms every school day and are one of our best resources in alerting DCFS to a situation where a child may be in danger at home."
Each of DCFS' nine regions, which encompass each of the state's largest cities and surrounding parishes, developed their own plans best tailored to their communities. Child Welfare workers will meet with or have meetings scheduled with local school boards, principals, school nurses, teachers and Head Start programs.
In Orleans region, Child Welfare workers will make presentations over the course of the school years to staff members at the region's 214 public and charter schools. Additionally, child welfare workers will target specific schools to meet personally with school administrators.
In Baton Rouge, the region's public and private school administrators were invited to a meeting this month to learn about mandatory reporting. Child Welfare workers are already reaching out to Head Start programs. In Covington and Thibodaux regions, all public schools are invited to schedule presentations with child welfare workers.
In Lafayette, presentations to school personnel will include information on fostering and adoption, as well as mandatory reporting. Lake Charles staff members participated in an annual parish-wide teacher in-service and are making visits to targeted schools. In Alexandria, staff met or will meet with school principals and school systems, as well as Head Start programs.
In Shreveport, three teams will present information to all schools in Caddo, Bossier and Bienville parishes over the course of the school year, while visits to schools in other parishes have been completed. In Monroe, three teams are working with individual parishes to meet with school boards, principals and individual schools.
For some DCFS regions, reaching out to school systems continues previous years' work, while for others an organized outreach program is new. Any school that was not contacted as part of this effort, but would like to take part, can call (225) 342-9141. The school will be put in touch with the appropriate DCFS region.
Teachers and school administrators are just one type of mandated reporters. Others include health practitioners and school nurses, members of the clergy, police officers and law enforcement officials, organizational or youth activity providers and coaches. A new Louisiana state law took effect on August 1, 2013, requiring mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect to undergo training. An online training can be found at www.dcfs.la.gov/mandatedreporters .
Anyone can report child abuse or neglect by calling the statewide, toll-free hotline 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437). For more information about reporting child abuse or neglect in Louisiana and mandated reporters, visit www.dcfs.la.gov/ReportChildAbuse .