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New Mandatory Child Abuse and Neglect Training Module: What, Why, and How?

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Every school employee in the state of Wisconsin is required by statute to complete a mandatory Child Abuse and Neglect training at least every five years to maintain licensure. Recently, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction released a new, updated module with significant changes in content, approach, and length. Here's the lowdown on what has changed and what to expect. 

All school employees are listed as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect in statute, Wis. Stat. § 48.981(2). If school staff are unsure whether they have reasonable cause to suspect child maltreatment, they must gather enough information to make this determination. This includes asking open-ended questions to get the basic facts of the situation and engaging in critical thinking. Critical thinking includes a process to slow down, consider the situation, and reflect on their worldview that may be impacting their inclination to make a report to CPS or rather to seek resources and support for a family. This type of critical thinking will help an employee decide if there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child they have seen as part of their work has been abused or neglected or has been threatened with abuse or neglect that they believe will occur. Under Wisconsin statute, if a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect child maltreatment, they are required to immediately report. 

What's Different in the Updated Modules?

  • Time: This training using the online module will require approximately 1 hour 45 minutes to 2 hours to complete. It includes important information for keeping kids safe and helping school staff understand their responsibilities as mandated reporters. Each user will navigate through the content at their own pace.
  • Mandated reporting shifts: Reporting without a basis has consequences. Moving away from the "when in doubt, make a report" mindset. 
  • Gathering information and using critical thinking: Slow down, be thoughtful, and consider whether the family’s challenges could be eased with more support and resources.
  • Families are the solution: School staff should approach families with curiosity instead of suspicion, applying a strengths-based lens to work with them to problem solve and identify needed resources.
  • Discuss concerns with parents/caregivers: Communicate concerns to parents and caregivers sooner and more often than had been encouraged in the past.
  • School staff need to better understand grooming: Report staff, volunteer, and peer sexual misconduct.
  • Mandated Supporting: Treating families with empathy, connecting them to resources, checking in at school, and finding support with school staff.
  • Understanding Impact: Our systems have caused harm, and removing children from families can have negative outcomes. Bias impacts our decisions, and those decisions have disproportionately affected especially Black and indigenous children. 

Read more about these changes to the reporting module in the Key Messages Related to the System Transformation for School Staff as Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect document.

Reasons for Change 
This training is now up to date with information based on current research and guidance in alignment with the Department of Children and Families Strategic Transformation. As we learn more about both the impacts of mandatory reporting as well as the outcomes of family support, it is clear that our mindsets and frameworks must shift. How we proceed with the mandatory reporting process can significantly improve student wellbeing and safety, and can have longer-term effects on the stability of families in crisis. 

Thank you to Julie Incitti, School Social Work Consultant with the Student Services/Prevention and Wellness Division at DPI, for your incredible work on the content of this module, and to Dan Toomey, Instructional Designer with the Teaching and Learning Division, for bringing this project from conception to reality.