Child Abuse and Neglect Policies and Procedures Policy Number and Last Update (01.05.10e/01-2011)
The goals of Illinois Migrant & Seasonal Head Start programs regarding child abuse and neglect are: to promote the prevention of child abuse and neglect; to identify child abuse and neglect; to assist in the response to child abuse and neglect; and to cooperate with the State child welfare agency. Illinois Migrant & Seasonal Head Start programs are agents of primary prevention by:
- Providing comprehensive child care services;
- Providing health and social services to the family;
- Providing opportunities for parent education on family wellness, and personal development;
- Providing staff and families with training on the various aspects of child abuse and neglect.
Illinois Migrant & Seasonal Head Start programs are part of the response to and treatment of child abuse and neglect by:
- Identifying and reporting suspicions of child abuse and neglect;
- Providing ongoing support services, including advocacy, to children and families;
- Cooperating with the investigation of reports of child abuse and neglect by the Department of Children & Family Services;
- Participating in the family treatment services developed by the Department of Children and Family Services;
- Advocating for the rights of all families to an adequate standard of living.
The Illinois Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Child Abuse and Neglect Policies and Procedures will be made available to parents upon request.
Orientation and Training of Illinois Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Staff and Volunteers:
All delegate staff and volunteers will receive on-site orientation and training on child abuse and neglect, regardless of the time of hiring. This training will be provided in one, or a combination of the following manners:
- Training provided by Regional or Field Office staff of the Department of Children and Family Services;
- Personal training provided by Project staff
- Viewing videos and reading materials.
On-site training will take place no later than one week after an employee is hired. It is preferred that all staff and volunteers are trained on child abuse and neglect before they begin to work with the children or families. Volunteers will be trained during volunteer training or pre-service. Parents may attend any on-site pre-service and in-service training. Delegate program directors will document on-site staff training on Monthly Reports to the Grantee Director.
Orientation and Training of Illinois Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Families:
At the time of enrollment each family will be given a copy of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services brochures in the family's preferred language: "What You Need To Know About A Child Abuse and Neglect Investigation" (distributed each year); "When Is It Legal to Leave Children Alone?" (distributed each year); "Preparing Children to Stay Alone" (distributed each year); and "Day Care Choices" (distributed one time only, the first year the family is enrolled in the program).
At the time of enrollment families will be advised on the type of services the program provides to assist them, and that all center staff and volunteers are legally required to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect to the DCFS Hotline.
At least one newsletter during the course of the season will contain an article on the subject of child abuse and neglect. Each center will have a bibliography of printed and audio-visual resources available for staff and volunteers and/or parent education on this and related subjects.
Primary Prevention Efforts:
Every effort will be made to enroll every eligible child of migrant farm worker families in the Illinois Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Day Care programs. If a child has a disability, priority will be given for enrollment in the program. The Policy Committee may elect to establish a policy which also gives priority for enrollment to children who have been abused or neglected.
Formal and informal assessments of the child's and family's needs will be conducted on an on-going basis. To the best ability of program staff, families will be:
- Assisted in prioritizing their needs;
- Assisted in recognizing and building upon their strengths;
- Provided with services either directly from the Head Start program or through referral to other resources.
Parent education, based on the Family Assessment, will be provided by all service areas coordinators on an on-going basis. Particular emphasis will be given to parenting skills, child development, nutrition, health, child abuse and neglect, sound child guidance, and family wellness.
If staff believes that a family possesses several of the characteristics that child abuse and neglect professionals recognize as putting a child at risk of being abused or which put the caretaker at risk of abusing, the frequency of contacts between the Family Services Coordinator and family will be increased. Strong efforts will be made to increase the active participation of these families in the program's activities.
Through word and deed, staff will endeavor to develop relations with families built on trust and respect. Every effort will be made to work with the family to prevent a situation of reportable neglect or abuse.
Service area coordinators will continue to deliver services previously initiated or planned to families who are involved in a child abuse or neglect investigation or who have been indicated for child abuse or neglect. These services are intended to facilitate the child's continued attendance in the program and the family's improved child rearing abilities.
Staff will discuss the allegation or substantiation of the report with the family, as the situation arises, in a professional, helpful, i.e., non-punitive or judgmental manner. Whether or not a report is substantiated, it may be necessary for staff to provide crisis intervention services or to help the child and family cope emotionally with the allegation. And, the parents may ask a staff member to advocate for them, i.e., help them to communicate their position and to clarify their rights and responsibilities.
In the instance of a report which has been substantiated, Head Start staff will cooperate with the Department of Children and Family Services and the family as they develop a treatment plan. This may involve the incorporation of the program into the treatment services. For example, it may be appropriate for the program Mental Health and Education staff to implement special classroom or in-home activity to help the child and family; the Family Service Coordinator may be asked to transport the family to services arranged for by the Department of Children and Family Services; or the Health Services Coordinator may be ask to monitor follow-up medical services to the child.
Head Start Performance Standards require that Head Start staff advocate for the development, provision, or improvement of services for Head Start families. In some communities needed services may not exist or may be inadequate. This may include agencies who exclusively serve farm worker families, e.g., the Illinois Migrant Council, or agencies that serve the community at large, e.g., the Department of Children and Family Services. Both Illinois Migrant & Seasonal Head Start delegate and grantee staff will advocate for families with agencies and individuals at the local and state level:
- To provide services the agency states that it is designed or mandated to provide;
- To modify its existing service delivery system to address the unique needs of migrant farm worker families;
- To create services that do not exist, but which are needed;
- To develop an awareness of the unique characteristics and needs of migrant farm worker families (as well as their commonality with the residential population) and;
- To resolve misunderstandings and problems between either Migrant Head Start families and agencies or Migrant Head Start staff and another agency.
The program director and Family Service Coordinator are to establish and sustain a positive relationship with the Department of Children and Family Services Field Office Child Protective Services Unit. An initial contact with the Department of Children and Family Services should occur before the center opens. Delegates could invite the Department of Children and Family Services to participate in the Parent Fair and their inter-agency meeting. This contact is for the purposes of exchanging information and establishing rapport.
Procedures for Responding to Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect:
All employees and volunteers of Migrant Head Start are required by state law to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services Hotline (1-800/25A-BUSE). Failure to do so may result in continued danger or harm to the child and/or the loss of the program's license to operate and/or the dismissal of the employee or volunteer, and/or legal action against persons failing to make a report. These procedures apply identically to suspicion of abuse by outside persons or by other center staff.
Each employee or volunteer who suspects that a child has been or is being abused or neglected may consult with the center director and tell him of the specific concerns. The employee will not first discuss her concerns with any other staff member. The director may not screen or influence which suspicions result in a report to the Hotline. The employee or volunteer has these choices:
- If s/he is not sure whether the concerns are sufficient to warrant a report of child abuse or neglect to the Hotline she may call the Hotline number with an "Information Only" call. In this type of call, the employee or volunteer explains to the Department of Children and Family Services worker what specific information she has which makes her think abuse or neglect may have taken place. The employee or volunteer does not have to give her own name, the name of the center or the name of the family. The DCFS worker will advise the individual whether or not the suspicions are sufficient to warrant a formal report. If there is sufficient and credible evidence to make a report, the Migrant Head Start employee or volunteer will provide the DCFS worker the information necessary for an actual report. If, however, the DCFS Hotline worker advises the individual that there is insufficient client information to warrant a formal report of child abuse or neglect, information about the availability of other DCFS services that the family may request can be discussed.
- If the individual believes that there is adequate information or evidence that child abuse or neglect has taken place, the employee or volunteer will call the Department of Children and Family Services Hotline (1-800/25A-BUSE) to make a formal report. She will give the Hotline worker the names, address, and ages of the children in the family, the names of the parents, the preferred language of the family, the name of the alleged abuser, the name of the individual placing the report, the name and address of the center and any additional information the DCFS worker requests.
It is preferred that the individual with the direct information about the situation makes the call to the Hotline either for information only or to make a report. If the employee or volunteer with the suspicion speaks Spanish, there are Hotline workers who can conduct the Hotline interview in Spanish. However, if the individual is extremely reticent about the process of calling the Hotline, the individual may request that the director makes the call . The individual must be present when the call is made and must cooperate personally with the Department of Children and Family Services requests. The director does not make the determination to place the call, rather, the call should be made if the individual believes that a call for information only or a call to report should be made. The director cannot refuse to assist the individual or change any of the information that the individual wishes to present.
If the director cannot be reached, i.e., is not present and cannot be contacted by phone, a staff person who suspects child abuse or neglect should go to the person the director has left in charge. That person should perform the function the director would if she were present. The director will be brought up-to-date as soon as she can be contacted either by phone or in person.
Under state law, people reporting child abuse and neglect may make the report anonymously. It is the policy of the Migrant Head Start Project that no call from staff or volunteer be made anonymously. Anonymity can prevent the Department and Children and Services from obtaining additional information and, if the situation arises, court testimony. It is part of the staff professional responsibility to participate fully in the process of ensuring child welfare.
If the child requires immediate medical attention as a result of the suspected abuse or neglect, standard procedures for medical emergencies will be followed. Under no circumstances will any Migrant Head Start staff or volunteer either conduct or arrange for a physical examination to verify child abuse or neglect. This may only be done by the Department of Children and Family Services, and only then with either parental or court authorization. The only permissible intervention is the standard response required for emergency medical intervention.
Under no circumstances will the Migrant Head Start program:
- Undertake, on their own, to treat cases of child abuse and neglect; or
- Become the primary instrument or treatment of child abuse and neglect.
The entire procedure for response to suspected and, in that eventuality, indication of child abuse and neglect is covered by rules of confidentiality.
Any Migrant Head Start staff or volunteer who suspects that child abuse or neglect has taken place should not discuss the suspicion with other staff or volunteer before or after advising the center director. Discussion of the suspicion, including a possible report to the Hotline, among staff or volunteers not directly involved in the case is prohibited.
Migrant Head Start staff or volunteer may not discuss a suspicion, report, or outcome of a report with any other agency without the permission of the family, or unless it is part of the treatment plan developed by the Department of Children and Family Services and the family.
If a report of suspected child abuse or neglect is determined to be unfounded by the Department of Children and Family Services, all official documentation of the case will be destroyed. No information about a family may be withheld from the Department of Children and Family Services when that agency is conducting an investigation of child abuse or neglect or planning or providing services after a report has been substantiated.
Center Migrant Head Start program staff or volunteer should not function as translators in an investigation of child abuse or neglect. It is the responsibility of the Department of Children and Family Services to hire and train professional translators. Serving as a translator in a child abuse investigation may make the distinction between Illinois Migrant & Seasonal Head Start and the Department of Children and Family Services unclear.
Immediately after a report to the Hotline has been made, the program director will notify the Project Family Service Manager or Project Director.
Any staff member or volunteer who reports the suspicion of child abuse and neglect to the Hotline is required to fill out the Department of Children and Family Services "CANTS 5, Written Confirmation from Mandated Reporter" form immediately. The program director may assist the staff member or volunteer in completing the form immediately. The original will be sent within 48 hours to the Department of Children and Family Services Field Office which is responsible for the community where the family lives. A copy will be maintained under lock with access restricted to the program director.
Employees or Volunteers Suspected of Child Abuse and Neglect
In the event that a Migrant Head Start employee or volunteer is suspected of child abuse or neglect, the program director will take appropriate action in accordance with the separate Migrant Head Start Project policy. A report will be filed with the Department and Children and Family Services and the director will meet with the child's parents or guardians.