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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.
In many states, all citizens are considered mandated reporters. 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.
Abuse, or suspicion of abuse, that must be reportedEdit
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 facilityEdit
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 immunityEdit
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 imunity 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 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[How to reference and link to summary or text]. When such conflicts arise, professionals often choose not to report; e.g., in a large number of cases involving clergy, numerous alleged child sexual assaults have gone unreported.
Informing family members and guardiansEdit
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 reportsEdit
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 reportingEdit
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:
- Adult protective service employees
- Child advocates
- Child protective service employees
- Dentists and dental hygienists
- Emergency medical service providers
- Marital and family therapists
- Medical examiners
- Mental health professionals
- Parole officers
- Physical therapists
- Physician assistants
- Police officers
- Probation officers
- Public health service providers responsible for the licensing or monitoring of child day care centers, long term care and nursing facilities, group day care homes, family day care homes, and youth camps
- Professional counselors
- Resident medical interns
- School teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, paraprofessionals, and principals
- Sexual assault and battered women’s counselors
- Social workers
- Substance abuse rehabilitation counselors
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.
- LADCSS.org - 'APS (adult protective services) Mandated Reporters: The following information applies to Mandated Reporters, who are required by law to report elder/dependent adult abuse', Los Angeles County, California Department of Community and Senior Services
- NY.us - 'Mandated Reporter Information - Child Abuse Prevention Summary Guide for Mandated Reporters in New York State'
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