Roxanne’s House, the Children’s Advocacy Center of the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center, works collaboratively with our community partners by employing the multidisciplinary team (MDT) model to address child abuse allegations effectively. This approach, endorsed by the National Institutes of Health and the US Department of Justice, fosters collaboration among professionals, including Children’s Advocacy Centers, Law Enforcement, Child Protective Investigators, Medical Professionals, Child Advocates, and Prosecutors. 

At the heart of the MDT model lies a child-centered approach, which prioritizes the well-being and safety of the child while minimizing re-traumatization. By placing the interests of the child in the forefront, Roxanne’s House strives to ensure justice outcomes are aligned with the needs of the child and their family. 

Interagency collaboration is another cornerstone of this model. Each partner agency contributes its expertise to investigations, addressing different aspects of the case. Advocates focus on family dynamics and resources, medical professionals provide physical exams and potential treatment, while law enforcement investigates potential criminal activities. Through communication, the MDT model seeks to balance the pursuit of justice with the protection and support of victimized children and their families. 

In Texas, mandated reporters are crucial to safeguarding vulnerable populations, particularly children, elderly individuals, and individuals with disabilities. Mandated reporters are individuals who are legally required to report any suspicion of abuse, neglect, or exploitation of these vulnerable populations to the appropriate authorities. Every adult in Texas is a mandated reporter and plays a critical role in safeguarding the well-being of vulnerable populations. Their reporting obligations help create a safer environment for all members of the community and contribute to the protection of basic human rights. 

No More Anonymous Reports

However, the landscape of child abuse reporting underwent a significant change in September 2023 with the enactment of House Bill 63 in Texas. This legislation prohibits the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) from accepting anonymous reports of child abuse and neglect. Previously, anonymity provided a shield for some reporters, particularly those fearing retaliation or court involvement. 

The goal is to lower the number of cases investigated by already overloaded DFPS workers that were likely not made in good faith. However, in eliminating anonymous reporting, House Bill 63 is ignoring barriers to reporting and reasons reporters may wish to remain anonymous. There may be concern that their identity will be shared with the family, fear of retaliation and worry that they will have to testify in court proceedings.  

In navigating the complexities of child abuse cases, the multidisciplinary approach remains paramount. While legislative measures like House Bill 63 aim to streamline reporting processes, it is imperative to balance efficiency with the protection of reporters and the well-being of the child and their family. Through collaboration and support Roxanne’s House staff strive to uphold the rights and safety of vulnerable children, ensuring that their voices are heard, and their needs are met.  

Authors

  • Ashley Rios

    Ashley Rios, LCSW has been with HCWC since June 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and Master of Social Work degree from Texas State University. She was a children’s counselor at Roxanne’ House and provided services to child victims of abuse which included play therapy and trauma focused cognitive behavioral therapy. Now, as the Roxanne’s House Program Director she offers support to the Roxanne’s House staff as well as builds relationships with community agencies to support victims of child abuse. She is Bilingual in Spanish and English and also provides supervision to BSW and MSW interns at Roxanne’s House.

  • Brandon Pendleton