Mandated reporter

Mandated reporter

In many U.S. states and Australia, mandated reporters are professionals who, in the ordinary course of their work and because they have regular contact with children, disabled persons, senior citizens, or other identified vulnerable populations, are required to report (or cause a report to be made) whenever financial, physical, sexual or other types of abuse has been observed or is suspected, or when there is evidence of neglect, knowledge of an incident, or an imminent risk of serious harm. For example, in South Australia, a school teacher must report a child attending school seeming malnourished or presenting with bruising, complaining of neglect or otherwise demonstrating neglect or abuse at home, to child welfare authorities.

These professionals can be held liable by both the civil and criminal legal systems for intentionally failing to make a report but their name can also be said unidentified. Mandated reporters also include persons who have assumed full or intermittent responsibility for the care or custody of a child, dependent adult, or elder, whether or not they are compensated for their services. RAINN maintains a database of mandatory reporting regulations regarding children and the elderly by state, including who is required to report, standards of knowledge, definitions of a victim, to whom the report must be made, information required in the report, and regulations regarding timing and other procedures.[1]

Contents

Abuse, or suspicion of abuse, that must be reported

Abuse occurs where a victim has suffered physical injury inflicted other than by accidental means, has injuries, or is in a condition resulting from mistreatment, such as malnutrition, sexual molestation or exploitation, deprivation of necessities, emotional abuse or cruelty.

Neglect may be defined as abandonment, denial of proper care and attention physically, emotionally, or morally, or living under conditions, circumstances or associations injurious to well-being.

Typically, minimum requirements for what must be reported include:

  • A description of how the reporter learned of the injuries or neglect and of any actions taken to assist
  • Information on previous injuries, assaults, neglect or financial abuses
  • The date, time, nature, and extent of the abuse or neglect
  • The date of the report
  • The perpetrator's name, address, and relationship to the (possible) victim
  • The reporter's name, agency, position, address, telephone number, and signature

Abuse or neglect suspected at an institution or facility

Mandated reporters are required to file a report whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect or believe any resident of a care facility has been abused or neglected by a staff member of a public or private institution or facility that provides care. Whenever the results of an investigation leads to the conclusion that there is reasonable cause to believe that that there has been abuse or neglect perpetrated by staff, then the institution, school or facility must provide records concerning the investigation to the appropriate investigating agency and/or to the agency that licensed the facility.

An institution may suspend employee(s) during an investigation, or, at the conclusion of an investigation, may impose penalties in addition to any separate penalties resulting from civil litigation or criminal prosecution. Employers may not discharge, discriminate or retaliate against an employee for making a good faith report or for testifying at an abuse or neglect proceeding.

Anonymity and immunity

Mandated reporters are usually required to give their name when they make a report, but may request anonymity to protect their privacy. A mandated reporter who knowingly makes a false report will ordinarily have their identity disclosed to the appropriate law enforcement agency, and their identity may be disclosed to the alleged perpetrator of the reported abuse or neglect.

A mandated reporter may be subject to penalties, though immunity from civil or criminal liability is granted to reporters who report in good faith. Immunity is also granted to reporters who, in good faith, have not reported. However, failure to report suspected abuse or neglect could result in fines or other sanctions, such as participation in a training program. Failure to act may result in even stiffer penalties, such as civil litigation or criminal prosecution with the prospect of potential imprisonment.

Conflicts

Conflicts between a mandated reporter's duties and privileged communication statutes are common. It has been argued that the category of "mandatory reporters" should be expanded to members of the clergy; however in some more traditional denominations the conflict this creates with the "confessional" makes this unworkable[citation needed].

Informing family members and guardians

Mandated reporters typically are not obligated to inform parents, siblings or offspring that a report has been made. In many circumstances, however, it may be necessary and/or beneficial to do so.

When a report is made at a caregiving facility, the person in charge of a hospital, school or other institution is generally required to notify family members, or other caregiver(s) responsible for the (possible) victim, that a report has been made. Healthcare professionals or members of the clergy, however, often must to talk with family members or guardians to offer support and guidance, or to assess the cause of an injury. In cases of serious physical abuse or sexual abuse, it may be unwise to advise caregivers before a case is reported, as it may put a victim at greater risk and/or interfere with a criminal investigation.

Investigation of reports

Law enforcement or public health agencies are responsible for immediately evaluating and classifying all reports of suspected abuse, neglect, or imminent risk. When reports contain sufficient information to warrant an investigation, authorities must make efforts within a reasonable time frame to begin an effective investigation, often within hours, particularly when there is an imminent risk of physical harm or another emergency; investigations must also be completed within a reasonable or specified time frame. The investigation also must also include a determination of whether the report was actually warranted or if it was unfounded.

Agencies must coordinate activities to minimize impacts upon the (possible) victim. Consent to interview(s) of the (possible) victim often must be obtained from caregivers, family members or guardians, unless there is reason to believe such person is the alleged perpetrator. In cases where serious abuse or neglect is substantiated, local law enforcement, prosecutors or other public offices must be notified, and a copy of the investigation report must be sent.

Professionals responsible for mandated reporting

In many US states, mandatory reporting requirements apply to all people in the state.

In other states, mandated reporting requirements generally apply to staff members of a public or private institution or caregiving facility, as well as to a variety of public safety employees and medical professionals, or a public or private school responsible for the safety and well being of vulnerable persons. These generally include, but are not limited to the following:

Training

Training is typically offered wherever mandated reporting laws are enforced, entailing matters such as recognition of abuse and neglect, what must be reported, how to report it, anonymity, immunity and penalties.

Training is available through a variety of sources. Many local child protective service organizations conduct classroom training. Training is also available through video and web-based courses. (For training providers see links below)

External links


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