By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
State law requires all those who work with children to report suspected child abuse for investigation. In the past, reports were made to local West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources offices directly. In the early 2000s, DHHR shifted to a centralized intake model. All reports of suspected child abuse had to be called into the “centralized intake” office in Fairmont.
In a shift of approach, DHHR is now allowing mandated reporters to report non-emergency child abuse via email as well.
“This email process is optional, and you are not required to use this process,” says Interim DHHR Secretary Jeffrey Coben in a letter dated March 3, 2023. “It is expected that this process will improve your reporting experience and decrease wait times for other callers, allowing Centralized Intake (CI) to better serve West Virginia’s vulnerable children and adults.”
Coben explains that this email process is only for “non-emergency” calls which do not require immediate attention. Any emergency situation involving potential child abuse must still be reported to the emergency hotline.
Non-profit and social service employees in Greenbrier County were sent the March 3 letter from Coben along with the email form last week in response to their request for it. It came via email from Justin Ash, Director of Centralized Intake. His email states that the email form must be requested from DHHR.
The email form is not present on the DHHR website. DHHR did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, Alaska is the only other state in the nation receiving child abuse reports via email. West Virginia would be the second state to do so.
Several states including Connecticut, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania allow mandated reporters to make reports of child abuse online via a portal. More states add this reporting feature each year.
As detailed by the Children’s Defense Fund Annual Report, West Virginia experiences the second highest rate of child abuse and neglect in the nation. Twice as many children are abused in-state as nationally.
To report suspected abuse or neglect in West Virginia, call the hotline at 1-800-352-6513 to make a report. For more information on prevention resources, click here.
Stay tuned to The Real WV for updates on the email method of reporting suspected child abuse.