In addition to the institutions mentioned specifically in the 51A law, any youth-serving organization can identify a “designated agent”—an individual identified to receive reports of suspected abuse from staff and volunteers. This way, staff who believe they have information or observations that indicate a child or youth is at risk know they have someone to speak with and, as a result, can feel less isolated and vulnerable. If yours is a small, single proprietor organization with a limited number of employees, you can designate yourself as the person to whom all reports or suspicions should be communicated. In larger organizations, it could be a supervisor, or the head of a department, the principal of a school, a guidance counselor, or even a small multidisciplinary team.
Whoever you choose to identify as the designated agent or reporter should be familiar with the local Department of Children and Families (DCF) office, the procedures followed to make a report, and what happens once a report is filed. That way, the person or group “teams” with the reporter, knows what information DCF will need, knows whom to contact and ask questions, and provides an informed “sounding board” to help the reporter and organization take the next steps to protect the child/youth.
NOTE: A designated agent may not agree with the reporter that the situation being brought forward warrants a call to DCF. The fact that this may happen should not prevent a reporter—especially a mandated reporter—from contacting DCF directly if they have reasonable cause to believe that the suspected abuse or neglect did occur. Your organization should make it clear that you will not discharge, or in any manner retaliate or discriminate, against any person who submits a report of child abuse or neglect to DCF in good faith.
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