Seven-month old Jayden Noel was taken to a shelbyville emergency room with cuts and bruises. The emergerncy room doctor suspected abuse but bought the mother's story that her boyfriend had thrown a toy into Jayden's crib, not realizing the child was in it. The doctor did not report his initial suspicion, and six months later the boy was dead, another victim of child abuse who fell through the cracks:
Star investigations repeatedly have uncovered instances that call into question the diligence of the Department of Child Services in investigating reports of abuse and neglect. But Jayden's death raises an additional concern: It prompted a Marion County judge to call out the emergency-room doctor who treated Jayden last summer, an unusual jab that more broadly highlights growing concerns about Indiana's mandatory child-abuse reporting law.
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Indiana law requires anyone "who has a reason to believe a child is a victim" of abuse or neglect to file a report with police or DCS.
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The reality is that even in this time of rising awareness of the responsibility to report suspected child abuse, many suspected cases of abuse and neglect go unreported.
Child advocates say that must change.
I think a lot of people -- maybe even most -- don't know how broad Indiana's law is. It says that anyone who suspects abuse or neglect -- not just those who work with or are responsible for children, but anyone -- is obligated to report it. I'd say the first steo in getting that change advocates say must come is to get the word out better than has been done.
Certainly we can go too far in reporting "suspicions" that aren't really founded and can't be backed up. But I think here we have to rely on the judgment of police and DCS workers and err on the side of safety.