Guest blog post by Ms. Taylor*, a Florida teacher.
Hannah* was my little helper at school. Only a first grader, she was smart and always wanted to hand out papers, get supplies, anything she could do to help. Her hand always shot up to answer questions. She told me she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up.
But then she changed. She didn’t want to help me anymore and stopped raising her hand. When I tried to engage her and called on her, she said she didn’t know the answer. One day she was in the bathroom for a long time before lunch so I went to check on her. When she came out her eyes were red and she was embarrassed – she had been crying. I noticed during class that she would snap a rubber band on her wrist – hard enough to leave little red marks.
I just felt something wasn’t right. I asked her if everything was ok but she said she was fine. I asked her how her mom was doing, what she did over the weekend, things to try to get her talking about her home life, but she gave me one-word answers, always telling me she was fine.
It hurt me to see her this way. Where had my helpful Hannah gone? I figured the Florida Abuse Hotline would think I was crazy if I called. What if her dog died or her parent lost their job and they had to sell some of her belongings. I had no idea why she had changed so drastically. But my heart ached for this child – something just wasn’t right. So I filled out the online abuse reporting form (www.FloridaAbuseHotline.com).
Our school had a DCF Abuse Hotline community trainer come out to the school about eight months ago, so I knew that even if my report didn’t start an investigation that maybe it would supplement a previous report. Or maybe someone else would tell them something in a month or so and then it would start an investigation. I knew that even if it ended up being something like her dog dying, that I did this out of love and concern for the child. I suspected something was wrong at home and it could be abuse or neglect.
I’ve seen glimmers of my old Hannah back, but she isn’t like she used to be … yet. But she seems to be getting better every day. Yesterday she raised her hand during circle time! I hope that my report helped her, but I know for a fact that it didn’t hurt.
If your school or organization would like a DCF Abuse Hotline community trainer to provide a training, please email Ashley_robinson@dcf.state.fl.us.
*Names have been changed for privacy reasons.