FCCS Part of Innovative Partnership with Mandated Child Abuse Reporters
As a recognized leader in innovation in Ohio’s child welfare efforts, Franklin County Children Services is at the forefront of a new partnership to more quickly and efficiently receive reports of child abuse or neglect from teachers, nurses, and child care providers.
The TEAM Ohio portal - short for Taking Early Action Matters - is an advanced online reporting system for mandated reporters who are required by law to report suspected instances of abuse and neglect, according to FCCS Screening Supervisor Erica Davis.
Still in the pilot phase, FCCS is partnering with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services as well as child service agencies in Fairfield, Stark, and Summit counties to test the online portal which collects information that screening decision makers need to investigate cases of suspected abuse.
"The portal is really easy to use and provides a lot of information which is critical for us to know," Ms. Davis said.
Also partnering in this pilot effort are referral sources such as Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Columbus City Schools, who can access the portal anytime in a “self-service” way when they are not able to call the agency’s hotline directly.
The TEAM Ohio portal began as a pilot project in June, and nearly 800 reports of suspected abuse in Franklin County have already been submitted through it.
Once a mandated reporter submits information into the TEAM Ohio portal, FCCS screeners take the information to consider the next steps in a potential investigation. Screening decisions are sometimes referred to a specialized group of supervisors known as Safe Teams who meet daily, Davis said.
"When a report comes in, someone might need to do a face-to-face family visit within the first 24 hours, and sooner if it’s a crisis," Ms. Davis shared. "Even on weekends, someone is always in the office."
Early benefits of the program show decreased hotline wait times along with streamlined reports which can include supporting documentation such as school or medical reports. And it usually takes less than 30 minutes to input, according to Ms. Davis.
The portal is limited to use by registered mandated reporters - those who are identified and required by state law to report suspected abuse because of their profession and whose organizations have been identified and included in the portal by the state for having mandated reporters.
According to the National Mandated Reporters Association, the professionals most commonly mandated to report child abuse include:
- social workers
- teachers, principals and other school personnel
- physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers
- counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals
- child care providers
- pastors and faith leaders
- medical examiners or coroners
- law enforcement officers and paramedics
With input from FCCS and the early adopters of this new tool, the TEAM Ohio portal is expected to be finalized and ready to roll out statewide later this year.
FCCS urges anyone who suspects abuse or neglect of children to call the agency’s 24-hour hotline at 614-229-7000. General inquiries can be made at 614-229-7100.