This week, Assemblyman Joe Lentol announced passage of legislation to help prevent child abuse by improving reporting as well providing more resources for parents and school personnel.
The Assembly’s legislation requires that mandated reporters receive additional training and coursework regarding identification of child abuse or maltreatment every three years.
“Any abuse that children endure is unacceptable,” Lentol said. “These bills would help provide people who are mandated to report abuse with the information they need to better identify cases of child abuse. The essential information could help save a child’s life.”
The Assembly also passed a bill that adds full- or part-time compensated school personnel with temporary coaching licenses or professional coaching certificates to the list of mandated reporters of suspected child abuse. This legislation requires two hours of coursework or training for coaching personnel on identifying and reporting child abuse and maltreatment.
Currently, the state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) is required to detail the circumstances surrounding the death of a child, but is not required to provide local social services districts the opportunity to comment on specific cases. The newly passed legislation ensures that local social services districts are included in that process, helping to shed light on the causes of these incidents and how they can be prevented.
Additionally, the Assembly passed a bill that requires OCFS to provide previous reports of child abuse and neglect to local child protective services agencies. This will enable child protective services to conduct more thorough investigations by ensuring they have access to any previous reports of abuse upfront. This change is especially vital in cases of recurring abuse.
“Every child deserves a safe, nurturing and healthy environment during childhood,” Lentol said. “This legislation will help child protective services keep track of abuse cases, helping get children out of harm’s way before it’s too late.”
The Assembly also passed legislation that directs local social services districts to prepare annual reports detailing average caseload- on a per-month, per-employee basis- for child protective services employees. In following years, the report will need to include comparative data for up to five years, if available. The annual report would then be made available for the public on the OCFS website.
Also aiming to further strengthen child protective measures, the Assembly passed legislation that requires hospitals and birthing centers to provide leaflets and recommend to new parents that they watch a video presentation on safe and unsafe sleeping practices for newborns. This information would help keep infants safe and could help prevent health complications or even death, Lentol explained.