April 21, 2011
By: John R. Coleman, Jr. (Bob)
Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP
This is a question we are confronted with on a regular basis. This issue arises in cases involving the Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFACS), involvement with school counselors, involvement with psychiatrists or psychologists or can arise from unexpected trips to the hospital or physician’s office. If you suspect that your child is being physically or emotionally abused, you should report this to the appropriate authorities. Under Georgia law, certain individuals are mandated/required to report suspected child abuse pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5. The purpose of the Code Section is for the protection of child whose health and welfare are “adversely affected and further threatened by the conduct of those responsible for their care and protection. It is intended that the mandatory reporting of such case will cause the Protective Services of the state to be brought to bear on the situation in an effort to prevent further abuses, to protect and enhance the welfare of these children, and to preserve the family life wherever possible.” If any of the following persons have reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused, they are required to report the suspected abuse:
- Physicians licensed to practice medicine, interns or residents;
- Hospital or medical personnel;
- Licensed psychologists and persons participating in internships to obtain licensing;
- Registered nurses or licensed practical nurses;
- Professional counselors, social workers, or marriage therapists who are licensed;
- School teachers;
- School administrators;
- School guidance counselors, visiting teachers, school social workers or school psychologists;
- Child welfare agency personnel;
- Child counseling personnel;
- Child service organizational personnel; or
- Law enforcement personnel.
Generally speaking, the mandated reporter must notified the appropriate authorities within twenty-four (24) hours and if requested, to follow up the verbal report in writing. The reporter is generally immune from liability. The purpose of this provision is to encourage people to report cases of suspected abuse so the referral can be thoroughly investigated. Often, reports will be made by various individuals including school counselors, pediatricians and psychologists all regarding the same child. If three trained professionals make referrals, this adds validity to the referral. If those individuals were discouraged from reporting and tried to analyze the information independently, a separate conclusion may be reached and a child could be placed at risk.
False reporting of allegations of child abuse is common in domestic/family law matters. Unfortunately, this bogs down the system designed to protect children and if discovered, could significantly hurt the credibility of the reporter.
John R. Coleman, Jr. (Bob) formally represented the Division of Family and Children’s Services (DFACS) and has been involved in hundreds of cases involving child abuse and neglect. Bob has worked with medical professionals, school counselors, and psychologists throughout the State of Georgia and has lectured at various seminars regarding child abuse and neglect. To learn about how our attorneys can help you in cases involving child abuse and neglect, contact the child abuse attorneys at Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP to discuss your options. Coleman, Chambers & Rogers works with clients throughout Georgia including: Hall County (Gainesville), Dawson County (Dawsonville), White County, Forsyth County (Cumming), Lumpkin County (Dahlonega), Union County, Habersham County (Cornelia, Clarkesville, Baldwin), Towns County (Hiawassee), Stephens County (Toccoa), Rabun County (Clayton), Banks County (Homer), Fulton County (Atlanta), Gwinnett (Lawrenceville, Buford) and Jackson County (Jefferson). Please call the bankruptcy attorneys at Coleman, Chambers, Rogers & Williams, LLP to discuss your options. Please call 678-928-5757 .
This article is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended, nor should be construed to provide legal advice.