Roscommon Community Leaders Sign New Protocol on Child Abuse and Neglect Cases
Roscommon leaders renewed their county-wide partnership to help prevent and investigate child abuse.
“Every county has a protocol on how we investigate child abuse cases,” said Northern Michigan Children’s Assessment Center Executive Director Rebecca Yuncker. “It’s important that we update every few years so, and finally that we’re kind of back in the swing of things, child abuse cases are on the rise, and it was a good time for us to revisit our countywide protocol.”
Roscommon County leaders from schools to health departments came together to sign a county-wide protocol, solidifying their roles to help prevent and investigate child abuse cases.
“It’s really an opportunity for us to all come together to sign a protocol that says we are in agreement to work together to investigate crimes against kids,” Yuncker said.
There are two parts to the protocol, starting with the community’s role.
“We have mandated reporters that are by law obligated to report your concerns,” Yuncker said. “That’s teachers, daycare providers, and medical professionals. As a mandated reporter the protocol is just saying you, because of your profession, are legally obligated to report to protective services if you have concerns if a child is being abused and neglected.”
The next part is about law enforcement, CPS and the assessment center’s roles.
“Once that referral gets made, the protocol really outlines how we together work as a multidisciplinary team to investigate those cases,” Yuncker said.
For law enforcement, having resources at their disposal to make their investigations easier, they say, helps them greatly.
“You would have kids come to the inside of a police station, wait for somebody who’s trained for forensic interviewing to come and talk to them, and a lot of times it wasn’t an ideal situation for where the interview was being done,” Roscommon County Undersheriff Ben Lowe said. “When they come here, they get interviewed in a very child-friendly place.”
And for schools, the training they get from law enforcement and the assessment center they say helps them look for signs of abuse.
“It’s really nice for this center to come out, provide the professional development to the staff, to the administration, the superintendents, so they know exactly how they’re a cog in that wheel,” said C.O.O.R ISD Superintendent Shawn Petri. “They’ll come into the districts and talk to teachers on the next step, what is mandated reporting, what really happens. Those questions are asked because teachers see things and they want to be able to take care of the child.”
For Undersheriff Lowe, he says it takes a village to help the families and children of Roscommon County.
“Truly if it wasn’t for all the people that were here today, this place couldn’t exist,” he said. “It has to have the cooperation of all the people that were here today.”