Harm statements are clear and specific statements about the harm or maltreatment that has happened to children in the care of their caretakers or parents. The harm statement needs to include specific details such as who reported, what happened, where it happened, when it happened. An understanding of past harm is crucial to developing a plan for safety and well being, as research shows that the best predictor of future danger is the pattern of past harm.
Example Harm Statement
1. WHO REPORTED (OR "IT WAS REPORTED THAT...") 2. THE SPECIFICS OF WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CHILD(REN) 3 IMPACT IT HAD ON THE CHILD
The hospital social worker and the doctor at the hospital told CPS that Neveah (12 mos.) was brought in to the hospital yesterday by her paternal uncle, who told the receptionist that he thinks Jessica and Alex are using meth and not feeding Neveah enough. Uncle said that when he went to their house yesterday, no one was home, the front door was open, and Neveah was on the floor crying. She appeared to not have been bathed for several days and had a dirty diaper with a severe rash. The doctor said that Neveah is extremely underweight and appears to be developmentally delayed.
Is your response to #1 clear and will the family know who you are talking about? Are your behaviors in #2 specific and exclusively related to child welfare concerns? Is the impact on the child(ren) in #3 specific and directly related to the caretaker's behavior? Is the entire statement written in easily understood language without any "jargon"? Then you may be ready to take your Harm Statement to a colleague for consultation or to use it in a discussion with the family.