A mandated reporter is a person who, because of his or her profession, is legally required to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the relevant authorities. These laws are in place to prevent children from being abused and to end any possible abuse or neglect at the earliest possible stage. Read on to learn more about mandated reporting, including what it entails and who is considered a mandated reporter.
Who Is Considered a Mandated Reporter?
The official designation of which professions are considered mandated reporters varies somewhat from state to state. However, in most cases the definition concerns anyone who works closely with a vulnerable population, such as children or the elderly. This typically includes social workers, teachers, health care workers, child care providers, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and other educators and medical professionals, although certain states hold that all citizens are mandated reporters.
Under What Circumstances Must Mandated Reporters Contact Authorities?
These standards vary from state to state, but the spirit of the laws are the same; mandated reporters should notify the proper authorities in any case in which they have reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected or that conditions exist in the home that may result in abuse or neglect. In most states, reports are anonymous, and there are no repercussions for making a report ("immunity for good faith reporting"), so there is no reason not to err on the side of caution and report any suspicion in which a child's welfare may be at risk. At minimum, a report must include all known information about the abuse or neglect suspected, along with information about any actions taken to assist the child and contact information of the reporter. If a child discloses abuse, you should absolutely report it to the proper authorities, after assuring the child that you believe them and will take steps to help.
What Are the Responsibilities of Mandated Reporters?
While people in this category are required to report suspected abuse or neglect, they are not required to, and in fact should in no circumstances, serve as investigators. That means that there is no reason to ask the child questions or try to get to the bottom of the suspected abuse; the correct course of action is to make a report so that the trained authorities may investigate. However, mandated reporters may collect information in support of their report, such as photographs or X-rays of any injuries. It is typically not required to inform the child's family that you have made a report; however, those who work for a hospital or educational facility may be required to make such a notification depending on their jurisdiction.
Keep in mind that even if you are not considered a reporter in your state, you are still encouraged to report suspected child abuse and/or neglect. For more extensive information about mandated reporters, consult this publication from the federal Child Welfare Information Gateway.