State Change in Reporting Mandate Offers Faster Response in Child Abuse Cases

Alaska’s Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Statue took effect at the beginning of this month [Sept. 1st].  Kawerak’s mandated reporter says this law change is a positive adjustment, but more should be done to protect abused children.

With this change in place, mandated reporters in Alaska now have to report instances of sexual abuse both to the Office of Children Services’ (OCS) and local law enforcement.

According to a statement from the Department of Public Safety, the goals of this statute are to eliminate time between when a report is made and the actions to the incident that follows.

Jennifer Dean-Johnson, a forensic interviewer and educator, from Kawerak’s Child Advocacy Center (CAC) says reporting to OCS takes time.

“OCS has a general intake and they have to do a report, then they have to send it on to the appropriate office who can handle that, and they have to have somebody who can go out [to] follow up on that report.”

Dean-Johnson says this new statute will also shorten law enforcement’s response times in addressing allegations of sexual abuse.

“Whereas a report made directly to law enforcement there’s fewer steps, and they can immediately get out to that child to make sure that the immediate safety of the child is taken care of.”

However, there is still much to be done to better protect abused children in Western Alaska. Dean-Johnson explains another challenge she faces in her work.

“I would love for children to be able to report and be part of the CAC process without having to have consent from a parent or OCS.  I believe that there are children out there that are hindered by that because if you have a parent that is their perpetrator, they’re not going to consent for that child to go through the process if it is going to incriminate them.”

In the Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) press release on this statute they stated the department, “will continue to collaborate with other agencies, whether it be through training opportunities or other initiatives, to hold offenders accountable and to support victims and survivors of abuse.”

If someone does not follow this law, they could be charged with a class A misdemeanor, and face a year in jail with a $10,000 fine.

For reporting instances of abuse please refer to this mandated reporting map and call OCS’s reporting number at 1-800-478-4444.

image at top: The Nome AST Post shares space in the Alaska National Guard Armory on Front Street in Nome. Photo from Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2019).

1 Comment

  1. Frank Sterle Jr. on September 21, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    A passage from the book Childhood Disrupted (: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal) in part reads: “Well-meaning and loving parents can unintentionally do harm to a child if they are not well informed about human development …”
    For instance, would a large percentage of procreative adults specifically comprehend that, since it cannot ‘fight or flight’, a baby stuck in a crib on its back while hearing voluble adult discord in the next room can only mentally freeze; and if allowed to chronically continue for a sufficient duration of time, this consequential effect causes the brain to dysfunctionally develop? And that it can be the helpless infant’s starting point towards a childhood, adolescence and (in particular) adulthood in which its brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines?
    Yet society generally treats human procreative rights as though we’ll somehow, in blind anticipation, be innately inclined to sufficiently understand and appropriately nurture our children’s naturally developing minds and needs. I strongly believe that a psychologically sound as well as a physically healthy future should be all children’s foremost right—especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter—and therefore basic child development science and rearing should be learned long before the average person has their first child.
    By not teaching this to high school students, is it not as though societally we’re implying that anyone can comfortably enough go forth with unconditionally bearing children with whatever minute amount, if any at all, of such vital knowledge they happen to have acquired over time? Perhaps foremost to consider is that during their first three to six years of life (depending on which expert one asks) children have particularly malleable minds (like a dry sponge squeezed and released under water), thus they’re exceptionally vulnerable to whatever rearing environment in which they happened to have been placed by fate.
    I frequently wonder how many instances there are wherein immense long-term suffering by children of dysfunctional rearing might have been prevented had the parent(s) received some crucial parenting instruction by way of mandatory high school curriculum. [Frank Sterle Jr.]