It is not legally required to inform parents that a report is being made, although most of the time it is helpful to do so. Remember, there is not a presumption of abuse, and discussing the situation with the parents may prove beneficial.
However, it is probably not a good idea to disclose if the parent may become violent, flee with the child, or may hurt the child further. You may also decide to wait until police or CPS are present before you disclose the report.
- tell the child what you are concerned about, and that you think it is important to get help about this
- allow the child to listen while you phone CPS to help maintain trust
- tell the child what will happen next
- if the child is afraid to go home, tell her/him that they can stay in a safe place until this is sorted out
- make a follow-up appointment so that the child has continuity of care
Having a verbal and/or written confidentiality disclosure up front before pediatric visits will help if subsequently there is a need to report. Parents may not be aware that their behavior is considered abusive (as that may have been the way they were brought up familially or culturally) and may become angry and defensive.
Focus on the report in a matter of fact and nonjudgmental way, as a duty to protect children. Explain that whenever there are certain situations or injuries you are required to report.
If appropriate for the situation, emphasize that caring for small children is very stressful, and that the report is also a way to access services and support, such as parenting classes, childcare, housing benefits, etc. Parents may recognize that they have been out of control, and at some point appreciate the intervention as a way to help them become better parents.
You or the social worker can then explain what will happen next. Maintain rapport whenever possible, and let the family know you will be supportive as they go through the evaluation process.