Children in Need of Protection: Reporting policies in Ontario school districts
Shewchuk, Samantha Jo
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The purpose of this study was to explore the case, organizational, decision maker, and external factors that influence teaching professionals when deciding to report children suspected to be in need of protection. Teachers report 24%, or 175,920 cases to Children’s Aid Societies annually in Canada; researchers who have examined teacher reporting practices, speculate that teachers fail to report between 50 to 84%, or 87,960–147,773 cases of suspected cases to authorities.The conceptual framework for the study came from Baumann, Dalgleish, Fluke, and Kern’s (2011) decision-making ecology framework which claims that individuals consider case, organizational, external, and decision-maker factors when making a decision. Phase one included an analysis of 64 policies on reporting children suspected to be in need of protection from English speaking, public and Catholic school districts and geographically isolated school authorities. Crosson-Tower’s (2013) policy analysis framework was used to analyze education factors, the legal system, document properties, procedures, support systems, training opportunities, and community relationships. Phase two consisted of one hour, semi-structured interviews (n = 7) with individuals who are mandated to report, and who had made at least one report. Interview questions were based on the conceptual framework and from the findings from phase one. Results revealed that many school districts omitted information that could have been beneficial to teachers who were required to report. Throughout the province it also appeared that training opportunities were minimal. This study did not explore whether training actually took place in school districts. Interview data, although not generalizable due to the sample size, appeared to suggest a lack of communication between school districts and parents, and teachers and Children’s Aid Societies (CAS). Conclusion: More research is needed to see how much of the supports listed in school district policies, such as training opportunities and support systems, are actually implemented and the subsequent effect of these actions on teacher’s reporting practices.