I am a social worker in Wisconsin, recently my 5 y/0 grandndaughter( who lives in MN) has revealed to me that her step mother hits her across her face for discipline. The parents share joint physical custody and placement, the child has never made up stories before, and I am wondering how to proceed. Is documentation the way to go, speak w/ the father ? She will be starting school soon, is this something the school SW should be aware of?
1 Answer from Attorneys
There are a number of different ways to go depending on your concerns. First, not all corporal punishment is considered abusive and one person's slap is another person's tap. It is a matter of degree. generally, if it is carried out with anything other than a hand, it is inappropriate. generally, if it leaves a mark, it is inappropriate.
You can certainly call child protective services. That will undoubtedly result in a call or visit to the parent's home and an inquiry. That will most certainly anger the other parent and may create conflict between parents.
You may certainly contact the parent who has primary care taking responsibilities when the incident occurred and express concern as well as suggesting this should not occur again. You may also hear that parent's side of the story which may allow you to assess credibility of the incident.
Finally, you may wish to speak with the child and let her know that if she has concerns, she can speak with the social worker at school. If the social worker suspects abuse, as a mandatory reporter, child protection becomes involved.
It would seem, in most cases, steps one and two should occur.
Maury D. Beaulier
Attorney at Law'