Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse
What is Mandated Reporting?
Mandated Reporting laws require that professionals (and others depending on the state law) who work with children report a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being mistreated or abused to child protective services or law enforcement. By 1967, all fifty states had passed some form of mandatory reporting law. In 1974 the federal government passed the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act (CAPTA) which required states to pass more specific mandatory reporting laws. Each of the fifty states requires virtually all professionals with any responsibility for children to report. The most comprehensive state-by-state analysis can be found at: RAINN State Law Database
Mandated reporters should not wait for a child to tell them about abuse. Properly trained reporters should be alert to indicators of possible abuse, including grooming behaviors and “red flags” that bring to mind possible inappropriate behavior. It is not the reporter’s task to substantiate the abuse, only to report a reasonable suspicion. The most vexing part of the mandatory reporting requirement is deciding what constitutes “reasonable cause to suspect.”
If you familiarize yourself with the ways in which perpetrators gain access to children, the grooming process, and the behaviors commonly recognized as “red flags” it is easier to listen when your antenna goes up. One way to think about it, recognizing how incredibly difficult it is to suspect someone you know and trust, is to listen when you have the thought, “I wonder if something is off here?” Or, “I feel uncomfortable about what I am seeing here.”
We are so naturally resistant to thinking child abuse, especially sexual abuse, could be happening, these are the interior signals that you need to pay much closer attention and act affirmatively for children. It is natural to fear that you might ruin an adult’s life by reporting. But by the time we see what is happening, we have enough information to take that step and act to save a child. All states provide immunity for anyone making a good faith report and you have the right to report anonymously.
Call your local child protective service child abuse hotline or call 1-800-4ACHILD and they will refer you to the appropriate agency.