Child Abuse & Neglect
Are Children Service Records Confidential?
OAC 5101:2-33-21 Confidentiality and Dissemination of Child Welfare Information
According to this rule each report and assessment/investigation of alleged child abuse or neglect is confidential. This rule provides directive to the agency as to when and to whom confidential records can be released. This rule also states that the identity of persons making reports are confidential and can only be released to police and prosecutors who are making their own investigation about the report. Every reporter has the right to ask to be anonymous and refuse to provide identifying information as a result.
Am I mandated to report abuse or neglect?
ORC 2151.421 is the law that defines what professionals are mandated to report knowledge or suspicion of child abuse/neglect. Some examples are: teachers, nurses, day care providers, counselors. The list is much longer but these are the people that families typically have contact with the most. Mandated reporters are permitted by law to know if their referral was accepted as an investigation as well as what the outcome of the investigation is. At Ottawa County Children Services; we send a letter to mandated reporters within days of their referral advising them if there is an investigation and who the assigned worker is. At the end of the investigation, the mandated reporter gets a second letter telling them if the case is being closed or opened for other services.
What does ABUSE look like?
- Physical abuse is physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caretaker intended to hurt the child.
- Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caretaker such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
- Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. This can also include any acts by the parents which may create psychological trauma to the child. Emotional abuse is often difficult to prove and, therefore, child protective services may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm to the child. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms are identified.
What does NEGLECT look like?
Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect may be:
- Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
- Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)
- Educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs)
- Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs)
These situations do not always mean a child is neglected. Sometimes cultural values, standards of care in the community, or poverty may be contributing factors, indicating the family is in need of information or assistance. When a family fails to use information and resources, and the child’s health or safety is at risk, then child welfare intervention may be required.
What is a disposition?
A disposition is the determination of whether or not abuse or neglect has occurred or is occurring. Dispositions occur in the following ranking order from highest to lowest:
- Substantiated (means the report disposition in which there is an admission of child abuse or neglect by the person(s) responsible; an adjudication of child abuse or neglect; or other forms of confirmation deemed valid by the PCSA.)
- Indicated (means the report disposition in which there is circumstantial or other isolated indicators of child abuse or neglect lacking confirmation; or a determination by the caseworker that the child may have been abused or neglected based upon completion of an assessment/investigation.)
- Unsubstantiated (means the report disposition in which the assessment/ investigation determined no occurrence of child abuse or neglect.)
- If the perpetrator does not agree with or wishes to appeal the disposition, they may do so for 30 days after they receive notice. They may call the Children Services Administrator to request the paperwork to do so.
How can a report be made?
Reports of known or suspected abuse, neglect, and exploitation can be made by phone, mail, fax or in person at 8043 West State Route 163, Suite 200, Oak Harbor, OH 43449. Our phone number is (419) 898-3688.
Agency hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00am until 4:30pm
Emergency after hour referrals can be made by calling the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office at (419) 734-4404 or by calling the children services emergency line at 1 (800) 707-8639.
Children Services investigates allegations of physical and sexual abuse and emotional maltreatment. The determination if referrals will be investigated is based on guidelines provided by the state. If the referral meets the guidelines criteria, it is screened in and becomes a report. If the referral does not meet the guidelines criteria, it is screened out and further action is not taken.
Children Services also accepts self referrals from parents. This type of case is referred to as a FINS case (a Family In Need of Services.) These self referrals need to be free from any concerns of abuse or neglect already occurring to a child. Parents are encouraged to contact the agency when there are circumstances in their lives involving their children that could lead to potential safety threats or future harm if left unaddressed. Examples of this would include: homelessness, assistance in getting utilities turned on, etc…
Children Services began practicing Differential Response, in March of 2013. This is also known as DR. DR allows us to have two different approaches to engaging families we serve. For more significant allegations of physical or sexual abuse, the agency uses a Traditional Response (TR) and conducts an investigation of the report, which concludes with a formal disposition. When the agency receives a referral that meets the state guidelines where the concerns are of lesser nature, the agency uses an Alternative Response (AR) to engage the family and build on family strengths and supports. There are no formal findings with AR.