Why are they reluctant to report? A study of the barriers to reporting to child welfare services among public dental healthcare personnel

Citation Bjørknes R, Iversen AC, Nordrehaug Åstrøm A, Vaksdal Brattabø I. Health Soc. Care Community 2018; ePub(ePub): ePub.
Affiliation Oral Health Centre of Expertise in Western Norway, Bergen, Norway.
Copyright (Copyright © 2018, John Wiley and Sons)
DOI 10.1111/hsc.12703
PMID 30565768
Abstract This study is a national cross-sectional survey, conducted in November 2014, of 366 dental hygienists and dentists who had suspected maltreatment but did not report it to Norwegian Child Welfare Services (CWS). The aims of the present paper are to identify the reasons why public dental healthcare professionals are reluctant to report suspected child maltreatment to CWS and to determine whether there are differences in the identified barriers according to socio-demographic variables. The questionnaire was based on earlier studies and was adapted to fit the Norwegian context. The most frequently chosen reason for not reporting was "unsure of own assessment" (90.4%). Thirteen items pertaining to not reporting were factorised into three factors of barriers. These factors were "insufficient knowledge of child maltreatment and reporting", "fear of the consequences for oneself and the dental clinic", and "fear of the consequences for the patient and their family". A t test revealed that public dental healthcare personnel who had not received training on maltreatment and reporting to CWS during their professional education scored significantly higher on the barrier "insufficient knowledge of child maltreatment and reporting" than did dental personnel who had received such training. Furthermore, dental personnel with more years of experience (11+) scored higher on this barrier than did dental personnel with less experience. No other significant differences in barriers were observed. Public dental healthcare personnel have a mandatory obligation to report to CWS if they suspect child maltreatment. Despite this obligation, the present study reveals that several barriers to reporting exist. This study underscores the importance of strengthening knowledge among dental hygienists and dentists about when and how to report, both during education and in clinical practice.

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