Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting

Discussion of Emotional Abuse Scenario 1


The correct answer for Scenario 1 is No.

The situation referenced in Scenario 1 should not be reported to DFCS as neglect.

Emotional abuse is difficult to recognize, and Georgia law does not give a great deal of clear direction about what is and is not emotional abuse. One relevant code section indicates that emotional deprivation occurs when a child is without proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for the child's physical, mental, or emotional health or morals. O.C.G.A. 15-11-2(8)(A)(2008) While the mother’s use of coarse language and threats of punishment in a loud voice were directed at the students and alarming to the educators in the meeting, there is no reason to believe that this is the way the mother normally interacts with the child.


Key Concepts in Scenario 1:

  • Reportable emotional abuse is difficult to recognize, and Georgia law does not give definitive guidance on what is and is not emotional abuse.
  • Emotional abuse is typically not an isolated event. It is more likely to be a pattern of behavior over time.
  • Mandated reporters are required to report emotional abuse.
  • Even if all of your colleagues believe that the situation does not warrant a report, if you as a mandated reporter believe that it does, you should report or contact someone in the intake department at DFCS for direction on whether the situation should be reported.

Features of Scenario 1:

The full extent of the student’s non-compliant behavior at school had not been known to mom prior to the meeting. Mom escalated emotionally as she heard more about how poorly the student was performing academically and behaviorally.

While cursing at ones child is not optimal parenting by any stretch of the imagination, an isolated incident of it does not necessarily indicate emotional abuse. Nothing presented in the scenario points to an ongoing pattern of verbal assault or terrorization. Emotional abuse is not likely something that happens one time in isolation. It is more likely to be a pattern of behavior over time.

The mother has been observed in other situations by the school counselor and assistant principal and never been known to behave like this.

Mom’s threat to take away privileges and freedoms if the child does not improve her performance and behavior seemed reasonable to several colleagues.

While others may disagree, you are liable for your own actions as a mandated reporter. Even if your colleagues think it wasn’t emotional abuse, if you think it was, you should at least consult with someone in the intake department at DFCS to determine if a report is warranted.


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