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Education professionals crucial in reporting child abuse cases

A Columbia man was arrested earlier this week for reportedly striking a 6-year-old child with a blind adjustment stick that left several welts on the child’s arm before going into school.

Dewayne Carter, 24, was charged with child abuse on Monday when the incident apparently happened. He is currently in the Boone County Jail with a $10,000 bond.

According to the probable cause statement, the child’s teacher noticed the welts and contacted the Children’s Division to investigate.

Between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, 118,886 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect were reported to the state hotline number.

According to the Department of Social Services, the Children’s Division looked in 68,234 cases involving more than 100,000 children.

The number of reports in FY14 increased by 10.5%.About two-thirds of those reports were made by mandated reporters.

State law defines mandated reporters as any professional who is responsible for the care of children. This includes teachers, doctors, therapists, social workers and more.

“When in doubt, report,” said Jerri Sites, Director at the Child Advocacy Center in Columbia. “The law says to report on the suspicion. So once it gets into the system, the people who are trained to investigate those concerns then look into it more thoroughly.”

Michelle Baumstark, Columbia Public Schools spokesperson, said CPS requires all its employees to be trained mandatory reporters.

“Sometimes it’s hard when you might not be seeing a consistent pattern of behavior,” she said. “That’s what makes it a little more difficult to make a determination. Sometimes it can be very obvious what’s happening and sometimes maybe not so much.”

In FY14, 76,966 people reported cases of suspected child abuse or neglect to the CANHU. Mandated reporters called in about two-thirds of the reports and 16 percent were school principals.

“You can’t learn if you don’t feel safe. You can’t learn if you’re not feeling well,” Baumstark said. “So we really want to make sure we create a safe environment for our students. And by law we’re required to do it.”

Click here for the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline number.

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