A mandated reporter is an adult, often a professional, who works in a setting that could involve them gaining information of a crime against a vulnerable person, which typically means the abuse or neglect of a child. These people are legally required to report the crime to law enforcement. People who are mandated to report a crime are not liable for not maintaining confidentiality when it concerns the reporting of the crime.
Mandated reporters are deemed very important people to professionals in the counseling world. They allow vulnerable people who are being abused to take steps closer towards a life of safety. Mandated reporters can be found in many different settings and can save people’s lives. Let’s learn more.
Who Is a Mandated Reporter
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act allows each state to determine who is a mandated reporter. In almost all of the states and territories of the United States, mandatory reporters include social workers, teachers, school principals, and other personnel, physicians, nurses, healthcare workers, counselors, therapists, and mental health workers. Childcare providers, law enforcement professionals, and medical examiners are also mandatory reporters.
Who Else May Be Required to Report
Institutional workers may also be required to report child abuse or neglect. Such people include volunteers who are not paid and people who do not provide direct healthcare but work in a healthcare facility. For example, a janitor at a childcare center might notice a parent abusing a child. In some states, the janitor could do the reporting directly. In other states, the janitor would report the situation to the head of the institution, and the institutional leader would be required to make the report. Humane officers, photograph developers, computer technicians, substance abuse counselors, camp counselors, and recreation center employees are mandated reporters in some states and territories. All states allow “permissive reporting.” This refers to the ability of anyone to make a report if they suspect that a child is being abused or neglected.
What Has to Be Reported
A mandatory reporter has to report facts and circumstances that lead them to believe a child is abused or neglected, explains the Children’s Bureau of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. For example, a school nurse might see large bruises on a child’s upper arms during a visit in which the child complains of pain in the upper arms. The bruises are in a place that is not consistent with getting hurt by falling on the playground or typical child activities. The nurse would be required to report what they saw. A police officer who is told by a child that their parent or guardian whips them with a belt would be mandated to report the situation.
What a Report Should Include
In their report, the person should include facts and details about the child. For example, a measurement of the bruise on a child’s skin, it’s color, and whether additional injuries are present. In most states and territories, the reporter can do so anonymously. This may be desirable in a situation such as a neighbor who sees a parent neglect a child. The neighbor might wish to avoid retaliation, but they want to report what they saw. Reports should also include the date of the suspected abuse or neglect.
Reporting crimes against vulnerable people protects them from future harm. It also protects others who could become victims of similar crimes perpetrated by the same offender. Understanding who a mandated reporter is and what and when they must report to law enforcement could help a person make an informed decision about their career.
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