Rachael Smith Rachael has a background in secondary education and has practiced law for eight years. In this lesson, we'll explore the concept of mandated reporting in child abuse and neglect and compare the laws governing this concept across the states.
Mandatory Reporters Each state and many of the U. Although the guidelines as to who is a mandatory reporter may vary by state, the laws are present throughout the country to protect children in vulnerable situations. Whenever there is a case of suspected child abuse or neglect, certain people are designated as mandatory reporters, who are required by law to make a report to the child welfare agency in their state or a law enforcement agency.
Mandatory reporters are not expected to investigate any allegations. In fact, in most circumstances, they're encouraged not to do so as it may interfere with an official investigation by the child welfare agency or law enforcement.
For that reason, mandatory reporters who may remain anonymous in some states must provide the proper reporting authority with facts and circumstances regarding the child that allow investigators to properly address the situation. Report Content Information reported to the proper authority typically includes: A report of suspected abuse does not mean that the child must have actually been abused or neglected; all reports of child abuse and neglect, therefore, must be made in good faith, where, based on the circumstances, reporters believe that they're doing the right thing by making the report.
Many institutions, such as schools and hospitals, have developed policies regarding institutional reporting. These policies require that employees report directly to a designated person or supervisor, as well comply with any state laws. Responsibility for reporting remains with the individual and not the organization itself.
Failure to report can result in disciplinary action, including suspension or even termination of employment. Mandatory Reporting Laws Most states require people working in certain professions to be mandatory reporters because of their frequent contact with children.
These professions may include daycare workers, healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers, lawyers, and even those in the entertainment industry. Six states as well as Washington, DC require that animal control officers report suspected abuse. Though this may sound strange, considering that animal control officers are called to homes for complaints of mistreated and neglected animals, they're able to observe conditions of a home firsthand.
New Jersey and Wyoming do not base the duty to report on a person's job. In these states, as well as in 16 other states and Puerto Rico, everyone is a mandatory reporter. Even though certain jobs involve more daily contact with children, the duty to report is placed upon each and every person.
In all states, regardless of the status of the mandated reporting laws, all individuals are permissive reporters, meaning that although they are not required to report suspected child abuse, they may. Certain individuals may be shielded to an extent from the mandatory reporting laws due to their professions. Most states make an exception for members of the clergy. Communications between clergy members and penitents people seeking guidance from clergy members are generally considered confidential and privileged.
Some states, however, do not protect these communications when there is a disclosure regarding child abuse and neglect. The vast majority of states limit this privilege to pastoral communications made in a confidential setting by someone seeking specific guidance or advice, such as a penitent from a priest in a confessional.
Communications that are not meant to be confidential are not protected by the clergy-penitent privilege. Jail terms can range from 30 days to five years and may be classified as either misdemeanors or felonies.