April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. As an employer, what does child abuse have to do with you? That’s a question that officials at Penn State might well answer for you. No doubt, they would approach the issue of child abuse differently if they had a do-over from last fall’s child sexual assault scandal. Throughout the course of that sad series of events, many opportunities to intervene or investigate were missed.
The Legal Imperative
Depending on the work you perform, you may have reporting obligations under the law. In fact, since the Penn State scandal, several states have or are looking to strengthen reporting obligations. In most states, the following professions have legal obligations to report child maltreatment: social workers, teachers and other school personnel, physicians and other health-care workers, mental health professionals, child care providers, medical examiners or coroners, and law enforcement officers. Other states expand the mandatory reporting obligations to commercial film or photograph processors, substance abuse counselors, probation or parole officers, domestic violence workers, animal control or humane officers, court-appointed special advocates, and clergy.
In more than a third of all states, reporting requirements extend to any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report. See Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect: Summary of State Laws. This is a good guide, but because several state laws are currently under scrutiny, you may want to check with state authorities too.
The Moral Imperative
Regardless of legal obligations, all of us as a society have a moral imperative to protect children. Employers can play a key role in curbing child abuse and domestic violence. HR managers and supervisors are often in a position to spot signs of domestic violence and can often play a critical role in directing the employee to help through referrals to an EAP or other community resource. In the past, the “none of my business” type of thinking often prevailed, but today employers know that problems at home rarely stay at home.
What can an employer do? The following are steps that employers can take to address child abuse:

  • Know your state law and your reporting requirements
  • Participate in national and local prevention and education efforts
  • Donate to a local community prevention organization or sponsor a fundraising activity
  • Educate employees about recognizing and reporting child abuse
  • Sponsor parenting skills workshops as part of health fairs
  • Offer seminars in stress reduction and anger management
  • Use your Employee Assistance Program as a resource
  • Be a family-friendly employer (see suggestions below)

The Child First Advocacy Center of Vermont offers 10 Things You Can Do To Prevent Child Abuse, steps that any adult or organization can take to support children.
A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice offers primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention approaches that communities can and should take. Among the recommendations for various sectors of society, here are the recommendations for employers:
As the number of parents working outside the home continues to grow, the need increases for workplace policies that support family functioning and promote the prevention of child maltreatment. Family-focused initiatives for the workplace include:

  • Flexible work schedules and other “family friendly” policies that help employees to balance the demands of their work and parental commitments;
  • Parental leave policies that reduce stress on new parents and help facilitate positive attachments between parents and their infants;
  • Employer-supported child care;
  • Family-oriented policies that support healthy and humane working conditions and ensure adequate family income;
  • Employee assistance programs that can provide information on reducing stress.

For all working parents, a supportive work environment can help ease the stress of the dual responsibilities of work and family. For some already vulnerable parents, a supportive work climate may prevent family dysfunction, breakdown, abuse, and neglect.

ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers help for parenting, childcare, domestic abuse, and other family and relationship issues. If you need help with a family matter, your EAP can help. If you are employer that doesn’t have an EAP, call us at 800-535-4841.


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