Can I be an advocate for a child if I’m not the child’s parent?

| May 23, 2019 | Firm News |

Children should never experience abuse. However, child abuse is still a problem throughout the state. As an adult, it is important to advocate for any child you think may be the victim of abuse. However, it can sometimes be unclear how to best advocate for a child if you are not the child’s parent.

Report suspected abuse

If you believe a child is in immediate danger, you should call 911. If you do not believe the child is in immediate danger, but you suspect that the child may be abused, you can report the situation to the Oregon Department of Human Services(DHS). Depending on your profession, you may even be a mandated reporter.

Certain professionals are required to report instances of suspected abuse that they may encounter through their job. Mandatory reporters include medical professionals, emergency responders, social workers, members of clergy, counselors, therapists and others. However, anyone can report suspected abuse, and often those who report suspected abuse are family members or close friends of the child or the child’s family.

Help with the assessment, if asked

If you report suspected child abuse to DHS, you may be able to receive a limited amount of information about the case. This can include:

  • If there is enough information for an assessment to be completed
  • Information needed to continue providing help to the child
  • If someone from DHS contacted the child
  • If DHS determined that abuse or neglect occurred
  • If services will be provided

After receiving a report of possible child abuse, a DHS worker or law enforcement officer may conduct an assessment to determine the child’s safety. This involves interviewing the child and the child’s caregivers. If the child trusts you, a DHS worker or law enforcement officer may ask you to assist with the interview. Participating in the assessment interview may be another way you can help the child.

Consider providing care, if appropriate

If a court decides that a child cannot be safe at home, DHS may try to place the child with a relative. If you are related to the child, you may be able to provide care for the child. Usually this care is temporary and the state may have legal custody of the child during this time. If you are a relative who has a caretaker relationship to the child, you may be able to intervene to be considered for permanent placement for the child.

The extent to which you can advocate for a child often depends on your relationship with the child. However, any adult can file a report with DHS, and if you suspect child abuse is occurring, reporting your suspicions can be one of the best ways to help that child.