Mandated reporter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In many parts of the western world, mandated reporters are people who have regular contact with vulnerable people and are therefore legally required to ensure a report is made when abuse is observed or suspected. Specific details vary across jurisdictions—the abuse that must be reported may include neglect, or financial, physical, sexual, or other types of abuse. Mandated reporters may include paid or unpaid people who have assumed full or intermittent responsibility for the care of a child, dependent adult, or elder.


In 1962, United States doctors C. Henry Kempe and Brandt Steele published "The Battered Child Syndrome,"[1][2] which helped doctors identify child abuse, its effects, and the need to report serious physical abuse to legal authorities. Its publication changed the prevalent views in the United States, where child abuse was previously seen as uncommon, and not a regular issue.[3] In 1974, the United States Congress passed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which provides funds to states for development of Child Protective Services (CPS) and hotlines to prevent serious injuries to children. These laws and the media and advocacy coverage and research brought about a gradual change in societal expectations on reporting in the United States and, at different rates, in other western nations.[4][5]

Originally created to respond to physical abuse, reporting systems in various countries began to expand to address sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic abuse. This expansion was accompanied by broader requirements for reporting abuse: previously reports were only submitted when an incident caused serious physical injury, but as the definitions changed, more minor physical injuries and developmental and psychological trauma began to be included as well.[6]

There has been a huge increase of reporting over the decades with enormous numbers of unsubstantiated cases.[7] Referrals increase each year, but the actual substantiated cases remain low and are approximately the same or decline each year.[8] Media and commentators often take the number of referrals to be synonymous with the number of cases of actual child maltreatment, which makes the problem appear larger than it actually is.[9]

Vulnerable groups[edit]

Various jurisdictions have mandatory reporting requirements for different types of vulnerable people, such as:

Statistics by country[edit]


Overall, the total number of substantiations in Australia has nearly doubled since 2001 (1.77 times higher) but have shown a slight downward trend since 2005-06. Specific comparisons cannot be made before this time, as different jurisdictions have made substantial changes throughout this period in reporting requirements and definitions of terms.[10] In Australia there was an increase in notifications from 2000-01 to 2008-09, followed by a decrease to 2011-12, reflecting, in part, different mandated thresholds.[11]


Brazil has a mandatory reporting system for child maltreatment that is enforced by the health and educational systems, but due to the absence of national prevalence surveys, the difference between data generated by such mandatory reports and actual incidence of abuse is not known, although it is believed that mandatory report systems may result in underreporting. While specific data on mandatory reporting is unavailable, data collected from 314 municipalities (out of 5564) across the country revealed that in the second half of 2005 alone, 27,986 children received attention from the Social Welfare Centers: either because of sexual abuse (13,240), psychological violence (4,340), neglect (4,073), physical violence (3,436) and sexual exploitation (2,887). Most victims were in the 7–14 years group (17,738). 4,936 were under 6 years old.[12]


Canada provides data on substantiations but not reports.[13] In Canada in 2008,[13] 36% of all investigations were substantiated, with a further 8% of investigations where maltreatment remained suspected by the worker at the conclusion of the investigation and a further 5% with a risk of future maltreatment. 30% of investigations were unfounded and 17% resulted in no risk of future maltreatment was indicated.

United Kingdom[edit]

England provides data on substantiations but not reports.[14] In 2012, the UK reports 50,573 children were on child protection registers or subject to a child protection plan: England (42,850), Scotland (2,706), Wales (2,890), Northern Ireland (2,127).[15]

United States[edit]

In the US there was a 2348% increase in hotline calls from 150,000 in 1963 to 3.3 million in 2009.[7] In 2011, there were 3.4 million calls.[8] From 1992 to 2009 in the US, substantiated cases of sexual abuse declined 62%, physical abuse decreased 56% and neglect 10%. Although the referrals increase each year, about 1% of the child population is affected by any form of substantiated maltreatment.[16]

In the US, there are approximately 3.6 million calls each year: 9,000/day, 63,000/week,[8] affecting on average 1 out of 10 U.S. families with children under the age of 18 each year (there are 32.2 million such families).[17] From 1998 to 2011 there were a total of 43 million hotline calls.[8] Of those substantiated, over half are minor situations and many are situations where the worker thinks something may happen in the future. The largest category was neglect,[8]

Each year in the US, approximately 85% of hotline calls either do not warrant investigation or are not substantiated. Approximately 78% of all investigations are unsubstantiated and approximately 22% are substantiated, with around 9% where "alternative responses" are offered in some states, which have a focus on working with the family to address issues rather than confirming maltreatment.[18]

Mandatory reporting of child abuse by jurisdiction[edit]

The criteria for reporting vary significantly based on jurisdiction.[19] Typically, mandatory reporting applies to people who have reason to suspect the abuse or neglect of a child, but it can also apply to people who suspect abuse or neglect of a dependent adult or the elderly,[20] or to any members of society. The Council of Europe has urged all countries to have mandatory reporting of child abuse but several European countries do not.[21] A large majority of European countries – 86 per cent – have some form of mandatory reporting; 77 per cent of African countries do; 72 per cent of Asian countries and 90 per cent of the Americas do.[22]

In Australia, the Northern Territory requires all citizens to report suspected child abuse,[23] and the other states and territories have mandatory reporting for designated work roles.[24][25][26][27][28][29][30]

In Brazil, notification is mandatory in the health system, in schools and by the Child Protection Councils (CPC) network, present in many municipalities.[12]

In Malaysia, The Child Act 2001 requires any medical officer or medical practitioner, childcare provider or member of the family to notify his/her concerns, suspicions or beliefs that a child may have been abused or neglected to the appropriate child protection authority in the country. Failure to do so can result in criminal charges.[31]

In South Africa, Section 110 of the Children's Act, 2005 mandates 'Any correctional official, dentist, homeopath, immigration official, labour inspector, legal practitioner, medical practitioner, midwife, minister of religion, nurse, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, psychologist, religious leader, social service professional, social worker, speech therapist, teacher, traditional health practitioner, traditional leader or member of staff or volunteer worker at a partial care facility, drop-in centre or child and youth care centre' to report when they suspect that a child has been abused 'in a manner causing physical injury, sexually abused or deliberately neglected'. The Sexual Offences Act, 1957, compels all citizens who are aware of the sexual exploitation of children to report the offence to the police.[32]

North America[edit]

In the United States, states frequently amend their laws, but as of November 2013 all States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have statutes identifying persons who are required to report suspected child maltreatment to an appropriate agency.[33]

Approximately 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands designate professions whose members are mandated by law to report child maltreatment.[33]

As of November 2013, 18 States and Puerto Rico, any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report suspected abuse or neglect regardless of profession. In all other States, territories, and the District of Columbia, any non mandated person is also allowed to report.[33]

Canada imposes a mandatory requirement on all citizens, except in the Yukon Territory where it is restricted to those who come in contact with children in their professional roles.[34]

Mexico also has legislative reporting duties.[34]

European Union[edit]

In 15 Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) reporting obligations are in place for all professionals. In 10 Member States (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Portugal and Slovakia) existing obligations only address certain professional groups such as social workers or teachers.[35]

More than half (15) of the EU Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden) have specific reporting obligations addressing civilians, with specific obligations for civilians to report cases of child abuse, neglect and/or exploitation. In many Member States without specific provisions, general provisions on the obligation for all citizens to report a criminal act under national law apply, but with no specific obligation to report a child at risk of abuse.[36]

In Germany, Malta and the Netherlands, no reporting obligations were in place in March 2014. In Malta, however, the new draft Child Protection Act (Out of Home Care),[37] introduces the obligation of mandatory reporting for all professionals and volunteers.[35]

Under UK law only local authority social workers, health and social service board social workers (Northern Ireland) and police have a duty to report suspicions that a child is in need of care and protection. Local child protection guidelines and professional codes of conduct may expect other professionals, such as teachers and medical staff, to report, but they do not have to do so as a matter of law.[21] Frontline professionals are also required to report cases of female genital mutilation.[38]


The criteria for reporting varies greatly between jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions, for example, require only physical or sexual abuse to be reported, some require any signs of sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect.[6][33][34]

Mandated reporters are usually required to give their name when they make a report. This allows investigators to contact them for further details if needed, and protects the mandated reporter from accusations that they did not report as required by law.[6][33][34]

Typically, reporters are encouraged to report their suspicions and not to investigate or wait for absolute proof, which can lead to further harm directed at the suspected victim, and allow for perpetrators to prepare their defence through intimidation. The investigation of the abuse is then left to professionals. Some jurisdictions allow clear protections for reports made in good faith, protecting the disclosure of the reporter's name.[6][33][34]

Innocence should be presumed unless and until evidence establishing guilt is obtained and it must be remembered that only suspicions are being reported.[39]

Professions and reporting[edit]

Mandated reporting requirements generally apply to professions that have frequent contact with children, although in some jurisdictions all citizens are required to report suspicions of some forms of abuse. Other jurisdictions have mandated requirements only of doctors or medical professionals. Mandated professions may include, but are not limited to the following:[33]

  • Child care providers
  • Caregivers
  • Clergy, although Clergy-penitent privileged communication is exempt in some areas.
  • Counselors and other Mental health professionals
  • Medical examiners and coroners
  • Health care providers
  • Police and other law enforcement officers
  • School teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, principals and other school personnel
  • Social workers
  • Abortion clinic staff (in some states)

Jurisdictions may note that, while these groups are legally required (mandated) to report, most jurisdictions allow for voluntary reports by any concerned people.

Clergy-penitent privilege and other exemptions[edit]

Conflicts between a mandated reporter's duties and some privileged communication statutes are common but, in general, attorney-client privileges and clergy-penitent privileges are exempt from mandatory reporting in many jurisdictions. In some states in the US, Psychiatrist and PhD. psychologists are also exempt from mandatory reporting.[40]

"Clergy-penitent privilege" is privileged communication that protects communication between a member of the clergy and a communicant, who shares information in confidence. When applied, neither the minister nor the "penitent" can be forced to testify in court, by deposition, or other legal proceedings, about the contents of the communication.[41] Most US states provide the privilege, typically in rules of evidence or civil procedure, and the confidentiality privilege has also been extended to non-catholic clergy and non-Sacramental counseling.[42]


Originally created to respond to physical abuse, reporting systems in various countries have expanded the reportable incidents, when it was recognised that sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic abuse also have profound impacts on children's wellbeing.[6] Critics of investigations into reports of child abuse state that

  • A child may be wrongfully removed.
  • Long, repeated interrogations and physical examinations can leave emotional scars.
  • Even if not removed, there may be ongoing fear, distrust and insecurity.
  • Long term foster care can leave lasting psychological scars and do irreparable damage to the parent/child bond.
  • An accusation of wrongdoing may disrupt a family even if allegations are dismissed.[43] Often threats and an assumption of guilt over innocence lead to feelings of powerlessness, inadequacy, depression, denial of due process and liberties, reputations tarnished and privacy invaded, and legal consequences if assumed guilty.[44]
  • There may be economic harm due to the need to obtain legal representation to defend one’s self and comply with the requirements demanded of them.

Critics state that mandatory reporting may also

  • overload the child welfare system and increase the tax burden.[45]
  • increase the number of unfounded reports[46] or reports that (due to vague and broad laws) do not merit governmental interference.[47]
  • jeopardize the ability of people, including abused people, to seek medical treatment or maintain a therapeutic relationship, for fear of being reported.
  • disproportionately affect African-American families.[48]
  • discourage fellow citizens from taking positive neighborhood action with families in trouble, as they may consider that their responsibilities have been met when they call in an anonymous hotline.[47]

They also state that mandatory reporting laws have had unintended consequences for the accused. Individuals, including juveniles, who have never been convicted of anything may be placed on CPS Central Registries/databases (different from Sex Abuse Registries) for decades, limiting educational and employment opportunities due to background checks.[citation needed] There is a 1.2–12.3% recidivism rate (repeat substantiations within 6 months of initial substantiations).[49]

Some feel that unsubstantiated rates are enormous and go beyond anything reasonably needed,[39][50] and that emotions about child abuse and sensational media coverage has led to an overreaction by some professionals and citizens, who report many cases that do not amount to child abuse.[39][39][50] Media and commentators often take the number of referrals to be synonymous with the number of cases of actual child maltreatment, which makes the problem appear larger than it actually is.[9] Conversely, Dr. Jill McLeigh from Colorado University has stated that, in the United States, there is "gross underreporting" of child abuse and neglect, but she does not believe mandatory reporting laws are the appropriate way to address it.[51] Ben Mathews of Queensland University of Technology said he had studied 10 years of data from Australia and other countries, and concluded that there were more benefits than not where reporting was compulsory.[51]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ C. Henry Kempe and Ray E. Helfer, editors: The Battered Child. 1st edition, 1968. 2nd edition, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1974. 3rd edition, 1980. 5th edition by M. E. Helfer, R. Kempe, and R. Krugman, 1997.
  2. ^ C. H. Kempe, Frederic N. Silverman, Brandt F. Steele, William Droegemuller, Henry K. Silver: "The Battered Child Syndrome." Journal of the American Medical Association, 1962, 181: 17-24. Tardieu's syndrome. Also called Caffey-Kempe syndrome.
  3. ^ Wolff, Larry (4 January 2013). "The Battered-Child Syndrome: 50 Years Later". Huffington Post. 
  4. ^ Krason, Stephen M. (2007). "The Critics Of Current Child Abuse Laws And The Child Protective System: A Survey Of The Leading Literature". The Catholic Social Science Review. p. 307,308,307–350. 
  5. ^ Douglas J. Besharov (1985). ""Doing Something" About Child Abuse: The Need to Narrow the Grounds For State Intervention". Harvard J.L. & Pub. Pol’y. pp. 539–590. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Bromfield, Leah; Holzer, Prue. "Australian Institute of Family Studies Submission to the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in NSW" (PDF). National Child Protection Clearinghouse. 
  7. ^ a b Krason, Stephen M. (2013). "The Mondale Act and Its Aftermath: An Overview of Forty Years of American Law, Public Policy, and Governmental Response to Child Abuse and Neglect" (PDF). Scarecrow Press. pp. 1–58. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Children’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2013). "Annual NCANDS Reports 1996-2011". 
  9. ^ a b Joan E. Durrant (2012). "Child Abuse in Sweden". The Natural Child Project. 
  10. ^ "Child abuse and neglect statistics". 
  11. ^ Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2013). "Child Protection Australia: 2011-2012 Abuse and Neglect Statistics". 
  12. ^ a b Cardia, Nancy; Lagatta, Pedro; Affonso, Claudinei. "Assessment of Child Maltreatment Prevention Readiness Country Report Brazil" (PDF). World Health Organization. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Public Health Agency of Canada (2010). "Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect- 2008". 
  14. ^ NSPCC (2012). "Children subject to child protection plans – England 2008-2012". NSPCC Inform. 
  15. ^ NSPCC (2012). "Child protection registers statistics/UK 2008-2012". NSPCC Inform. 
  16. ^ Finkelhor, David; Lisa Jones; Anne Shuttuch. "Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2010" (PDF). University of New Hampshire, Crimes Against Children Research Center. Retrieved 19 December 2011. 
  17. ^ U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Bureau of the Census, Table H. "Projections of the Number of Households and Families in the United States: 1995 to 2010, P25-1129" (PDF). 
  18. ^ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau (2010). "National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) 2009 Child Maltreatment Report" (PDF). 
  19. ^ Mathews, Ben (2014). "Mandatory Reporting Laws and Identification of Child Abuse and Neglect: Consideration of Differential Maltreatment Types, and a Cross-Jurisdictional Analysis of Child Sexual Abuse Reports". Social Sciences (3). doi:10.3390/socsci3030460. ISSN 2076-0760. 
  20. ^ Los Angeles County, California Department of Community and Senior Services. "APS (adult protective services) Mandated Reporters". 
  21. ^ a b Madge, M; K. Attridge (1996). Children and families. Social care in Europe. B. Munday and P. Ely, Prentice Hall. 
  22. ^ Perry, Tom. "Child abuse needs mandatory reporting to create a high-risk environment for paedophiles". The Independent. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  23. ^ Northern Territory Department of Health and Families. "Remote Health Atlas- Mandatory Reporting overview" (PDF). 
  24. ^ Western Australia Department of Child Protection. "Mandatory reporting in Western Australia". 
  25. ^ South Australia Department of Education and Child Development. "Mandatory notification – obligations of individuals and organisations". 
  26. ^ Tasmanian Department of Disability, Child, Youth and Family Services. "Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and/or Neglect" (PDF). 
  27. ^ Victorian Department of Human Services. "Child Protection Practice Manual". 
  28. ^ NSW Department of Family and community Services- Community Services. "Resources for mandatory reporters". 
  29. ^ Queensland Department of communities, child Safety and Disability Services. "Mandatory notifiers and reporting". 
  30. ^ ACT Department of community Services. "Care and Protection Services". 
  31. ^ "Report Abuse". UNICEF. UNICEF. Retrieved 14 August 2015. 
  32. ^ Hendricks, ML (August 2014). "Mandatory reporting of child abuse in South Africa: Legislation explored". South African Medical Journal. 104 (8). 
  33. ^ a b c d e f g National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (NAIC) (2003). "Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect" (PDF). Child Welfare Information Gateway. 
  34. ^ a b c d e Mathews, Benjamin (2008). "Mandatory reporting legislation in the USA, Canada and Australia: a cross-jurisdictional review of key features, differences and issues." (PDF). Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  35. ^ a b "Provisions on professionals' legal obligation to report cases of child abuse, neglect and violence". European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  36. ^ "Specific legal obligations for civilians to report cases of child abuse, neglect and violence". European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  37. ^ "Child Protection Act (Out of Home Care), 2014.". Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ a b c d Besharov, Douglas J, (Summer 1994). "Responding to Child Sexual Abuse: The Need for a Balanced Approach" (PDF). The Future of Children. pp. 136, 135–155. 
  40. ^ [citation needed]
  41. ^ American Bar Association (December 1, 2006). American Bar Association, ed. "Answers to Questions about the Attorney-Client Privilege". ABA Now. 
  42. ^ Child Welfare Information Gateway (2012). Children’s Bureau, ed. "Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect" (PDF). pp. 1–19. 
  43. ^ Sabrina Luza & Enrique Ortiz (1991). "The Dynamic of Shame in Interactions Between Child Protective Services and Families Falsely Accused of Child Abuse". IPT. 3. 
  44. ^ Chill, Paul (October 2003). "Burden Of Proof Begone: The Pernicious Effect Of Emergency Removal In Child Protective Proceedings". Social Science Research Network. pp. 1–43. 
  45. ^ The Associated Press. "Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case has states re-examining mandatory reporter laws". 
  46. ^ Anna Stolley Persky. "Beyond the Penn State Scandal: Child Abuse Reporting Laws". 
  47. ^ a b Orr, Susan (1 October 1999). "Policy Study 262 Child Protection at the Crossroads: Child Abuse, Child Protection and Recommendations for Reform" (PDF). 
  48. ^ LCSW, Dr Kenneth Lau; LCSW, Ms Kathryn Krase JD; LMSW, Mr Richard H. Morse (2008-12-02). Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect: A Practical Guide for Social Workers. Springer Publishing Company. ISBN 9780826117823. Retrieved 2015-05-13. 
  49. ^ US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau (2010). "Child Welfare Outcomes 2007-2010, Report to Congress" (PDF). 
  50. ^ a b Douglas Besharov (Spring 1998). "Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect". The Future of Children. Princeton Brookings. 
  51. ^ a b Niven, David; File, Kieran. "Should reporting child abuse be compulsory? Experts give their views". Retrieved 14 August 2015.