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What is a Mandatory Reporter of Child Abuse?

Teachers and childcare professionals are mandated/mandatory reporters for child abuse

A mandatory reporter is a certain person (such as pediatricians and childcare workers) who must report when they know or suspect that child abuse is going on. These mandatory reporting laws were instituted to help promote awareness of child abuse and early intervention, if possible. The laws make reporting quite straightforward and protect the person who reported the abuse.

Most states categorize those who work in professions that engage in regular contact with children as mandatory reporters. In at least 18 states, however, anyone and everyone who knows or suspects that child abuse has occurred is required by law to make a report. Still, there are some people (depending on their jobs) who have more serious reporting obligations in those areas.

In most states, someone can report suspected abuse anonymously or confidentially. There's generally no reason to be hesitant about making a report if someone genuinely suspects child abuse. Laws don't tend to punish people for making a good faith effort to report child abuse if the claim turns out to be unfounded.

A person who makes a report might, however, face repercussions if they report child abuse without any reasonable basis for it. Sometimes, a person is wrongly motivated to get the target of an abuse report into trouble and, therefore, is acting out of malice — not on the behalf of the children involved.

Are you a mandatory reporter? The following information will help you know the answer to this question and get prepared.

Mandatory Reporters

States with defined mandatory reporter lists require people in the following professions to report incidents of suspected abuse:

  • Daycare workers
  • Dental assistants and hygienists
  • Doctors' office staff persons
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • Family practitioners
  • Foster care workers
  • Hospital personnel
  • Medical examiners
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Police officers
  • Practical nurses
  • Psychiatrists and psychologists
  • Registered nurses
  • School administrators, advisors, and paraprofessionals
  • Social workers
  • Teachers and teachers' aides

The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) maintains a list of mandatory reporters by state.

Mandatory vs. Permissive Reporting

Though states differ regarding who is a mandatory reporter, you can always report suspected abuse. A person who reports child abuse voluntarily is known as a permissive reporter. To better understand the difference, consider the following situation.

Suppose you're a homemaker and aware of child abuse occurring next door at the neighbor's house. If you reside in a state where there's a defined list of mandatory reporters (various professions), then you wouldn't necessarily have to report this abuse. In other words, you wouldn't be punished for failing to report.

On the other hand, if you reside in a state where all persons are mandatory reporters (no matter their profession), then you would have to report the neighboring child abuse. If you do not report it and your knowledge of the abuse later came to light, you could be subject to possible criminal penalties (most likely a misdemeanor offense).

What if you wanted to report the abuse even though you are under no legal obligation to? That's perfectly okay and even encouraged. Even if you're not a mandatory reporter, you can report the abuse to local authorities. As a voluntary reporter, you'll also enjoy immunity from liability for a good faith report of suspected child abuse.

Are You a Mandatory Reporter of Child Abuse? Get Answers from an Attorney

Perhaps the strongest weapon against child abuse is active reporting as early as possible. However, this isn't always easy to do, especially if the perpetrator is someone you know well. That's why many states allow for anonymous or confidential reporting, allowing authorities to investigate and, if needed, step in to protect a child while preserving the confidentiality of your report. You can find out more about the reporting laws in your state by speaking with an experienced family law attorney near you.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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