What Is a Mandatory Reporter of Child Abuse?

A significant number of child abuse cases throughout the country remain unreported. To address this issue, most states have created child protective services agencies.

States have also imposed laws that protect child welfare. State laws now require certain people to report known or suspected child abuse cases. Fines and penalties are also imposed on those who fail to or falsely report child abuse and neglect.

This article will answer the following questions:

  • Who are the mandatory reporters of child abuse?
  • Who are the permissive reporters of child abuse?
  • What are the penalties for failing to report child abuse?
  • What are the penalties for falsely reporting child abuse?

Keep reading to learn more about this crucial step in preventing child abuse and neglect.

Mandatory Reporters

A mandatory reporter of child abuse and neglect must report any knowledge or suspicion of child abuse. They are typically people whose jobs involve frequent encounters with children. Teachers, childcare workers, or pediatricians can be mandatory reporters.

Due to the nature of their job, these professionals are in a position to observe the well-being of the child. Thus, they have a higher obligation to report suspected abuse and/or neglect. In some states, however, anyone who is aware of or suspects child abuse and neglect must report it. If in doubt, contact a local attorney who is familiar with mandatory reporting laws in your state.

Mandatory reporting laws are guidelines for a law enforcement agency handling this matter. Mandatory reporter training or online training is also available to ensure the well-being of the child. This training will also assist reporters in citing signs of child abuse.

The child abuse and neglect laws are also written to protect good faith reporters of child abuse. In most states, they can also submit a report anonymously.

List of Mandatory Reporters

Each state has a definitive list of mandatory reporters. In some states, certain people must report known or suspected cases of child abuse, including:

  • Daycare workers
  • Dentists and hygienists
  • Doctors
  • Doctors' office staff persons
  • Caregivers
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Family practitioners
  • Family therapists
  • Foster care workers
  • Foster parents
  • Health care providers
  • Law enforcement officers
  • Mental health professionals
  • Medical examiners
  • Nurses
  • Police officers
  • Psychiatrists and psychologists
  • School employees and administrators
  • Social workers
  • Teachers and teachers' aides

Although most people on the list are childcare providers and school personnel, anyone can report child abuse/neglect. Child protection is a duty of all responsible citizens.

Permissive Reporters

Permissive reporters are encouraged to report child abuse cases, though they not included in the mandatory list of reporters. They can be anyone, and they can file a report anytime there is suspected child abuse .

The permissive reporter is not required to know that child abuse is present. Mere suspicion of child abuse is enough to file a report. As a permissive or voluntary reporter, you can also report anonymously.

What Happens If You Fail to Report Child Abuse?

There may be penalties and convictions if you fail to report child abuse or falsely report child abuse, such as the following:

Failure to Report Child Abuse and Neglect

In almost all U.S. states and territories, a mandatory reporter who fails to report suspected child abuse or neglect can face criminal prosecution.

For instance, in Florida, a mandated reporter with a reasonable cause to report child abuse but fails to do so can be charged with a felony. Meanwhile, in 40 states, failure to report child abuse is a misdemeanor. Some states impose civil penalties (fines) as well.

In some states, mandatory reporters who fail to report the abuse can even face jail time ranging from 30 days to 5 years. Other states may give harsher penalties.

Falsely Reporting Child Abuse

There are roughly 29 states that penalize false reporting of child abuse. Any person who intentionally makes a false report of child neglect or abuse can face a penalty or a fine. Social services can also file a civil action. They can also recover the cost of any proceedings or investigation related to the false reporting.

Please note that fines and penalties vary depending on state law.

Seek Legal Help and Protection

Reporting is one of the most effective ways to stop child abuse. However, many people find it difficult to report to law enforcement authorities. For many people, retribution from the abuser is a serious concern. As a result, many states allow confidential reporting. Anonymous reporting helps human services agencies and other proper authorities get information about the abuse. A reporter can provide information without compromising their privacy and safety.

If you want legal help and protection, it is best to talk to a family law attorney near you. They can give you more information about your state's law regarding child welfare and the report of suspected abuse or neglect. They will also help ensure the protection of your legal rights as a reporter. A criminal defense attorney in your state can advise you on the penalties for failing to report a suspected case of child abuse or neglect.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • You can seek new child custody arrangements during an abuse case
  • Child abuse can affect legal rights to custody
  • An attorney can help create orders of protection

Always report suspected child abuse to law enforcement. Many attorneys offer free consultations.

Find a local attorney