This week on MALN Opinion plus we took some time to catch up with the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA). When we last heard from them we spoke with Melissa Threadgill, Director of Juvenile Justice Initiatives about the OCA’s work to improve the mental and behavioral health of Massachusetts youth. This time we spoke with Maria Z. Mossaides, Director of the OCA and she filled us in on the work they did over this past summer.
The Office of the Child Advocate was asked over this past summer to look into laws that cover child abuse and neglect with concern for aspects of our state’s mandatory reporter regulations. A mandatory reporter is a professional who is required by law to report any reasonable suspicions of abuse or neglect to their administration. Under Massachusetts law, institutions of higher education do not allocate coaches and those overseeing athletics programs as mandatory reporters.
Director Mossaides said that “as a result of the Penn State scandal and the Olympic scandal there was a tremendous concern that we (The Office of the Child Advocate) look at other states who have recently updated their laws to ensure that all sports-related activities are treated as mandatory reporters.”
With hopes to change the way mandated reporters work in Massachusetts, the office also looked at how these reporters are trained for their duties. Mossaides mentioned that under Massachusetts law, “We do not have any public entity charged with making sure that mandatory reporters know of their obligation under the law.”
After evaluating all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico’s mandated reporter laws the Office of the Child Advocate was able to outline specific and important changes to Mass. laws that they are expecting legislators to take a look at later this year. As another result of this study, the office has also announced that they are going to be launching a pilot program to train Massachusetts school teachers and help them better understand what kinds of situations need to be reported as abuse and neglect, and the situations that don’t need to be brought up to Child Protective Services in which they may be able to find families help elsewhere.
For more on this important topic and other work that the Office of the Child Advocate is doing be sure to watch the full interview with Director Mossaides linked above.
Resources mentioned in the video:
Office of the Child Advocate Website: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/office-of-the-child-advocate
Information about their complaint line: https://www.mass.gov/oca-complaint-line