The School Counselor and Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention
(Adopted 1981; revised 1985, 1993, 1999, 2003, 2015, 2021)
It is the school counselor’s legal, ethical and moral responsibility to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to the proper authorities. School counselors work to identify the behavioral, academic and social/emotional impact of abuse and neglect on students and ensure the necessary supports for students are in place.
The RationaleThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (2021) notes that most states recognize four major types of maltreatment: “neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment and sexual abuse” (n.p.) and also points to medical neglect and sex trafficking as other forms of abuse identified by some states. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, 2021) indicates the incidents of child abuse and neglect continue to be a significant concern. Child abuse and neglect is a public mental health issue that must be addressed through intervention and advocacy. A child who is a victim of abuse or neglect may experience consequences including, but not limited to, immediate physical, emotional or psychological harm; future victimization or perpetration; substance abuse; lower self-worth; and lower educational attainment.
The School Counselor's RoleSchool counselors are among those mandated by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974, Public Law 93-247 to report suspected abuse and neglect to proper authorities and are critical in early detection and recognition of abuse. It is imperative that school counselors gain essential knowledge of policies and referral procedures by staying current on reporting requirements and state laws. Laws and definitions pertaining to child abuse and neglect vary among states; therefore, school counselors should commit themselves to become familiar with and abide by child protective services laws in their respective state (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, 2021b ).
In addition to mandated reporting, school counselors:
- Understand child abuse and neglect and its impact on children’s academic, career and social/emotional development
- Provide interventions promoting resiliency, healthy interpersonal and communication skills and self-worth
- Make referrals to outside agencies when appropriate
- Engage families in the school community
- Identify barriers and limitations that affect healthy family functioning and may lead to child abuse or neglect
- Identify instances of child abuse and neglect and respond on both individual and systemic levels
- Provide professional development in consultation on child abuse to school staff, families and the school community
SummarySchool counselors are a key link in the child abuse prevention network. School counselors are responsible for reporting suspected cases of child abuse or neglect to the proper authorities. School counselors must be able to guide and assist abused and neglected students by providing appropriate services. School counselors are committed to providing high-quality services, with research-based intervention techniques, to children who are victims of abuse and neglect.
ReferencesAmerican School Counselor Association. (2019). ASCA national model: A framework for school counseling programs, 4th edition. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) with amendments made by the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities Act or the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, Public Law (P.L.) 115-271, enacted October 24, 2018. Section 7065(a) of P.L. 115-271 amended section 105 of CAPTA and section 7065(b) repealed the Abandoned Infants Assistance Act of 1988 (42 U.S.C. 5117aa et seq.). https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/law-regulation/child-abuse-prevention-and-treatment-act-capta
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2021a). Child Maltreatment 2019.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau (2021b). State statutes search. Child Welfare Information Gateway. https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/laws-policies/state/
American School Counselor Association. (2016). ASCA ethical standards for school counselors. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Barrett, K. M., Lester, S. V., & Durham, J. C. (2011). Child maltreatment and the advocacy role of professional school counselors. Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, 3(2), 86-103.
Center for Disease Control (2021). Preventing child and neglect. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/fastfact.html