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What Does Mandated Reporter Mean? 3 Things To Know

Why Report?

All children have a basic human right to health, safety, and well-being. However, 1 in 7 children have experienced child abuse and/or neglect. This statistic is likely an underestimate as many instances of abuse and neglect are unreported, meaning countless children may potentially be victims.

To protect each child’s right to safety in the United States, the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) mandates that each state have guidelines and procedures in place for specific individuals to report known or suspected cases of abuse or neglect. Therefore, mandated reporters have a legal obligation to report instances of suspected maltreatment. However, what does mandated reporter mean?

What Does Mandated Reporter Mean?

Many professions, especially those with direct contact to children, have a code of ethics that include obligations to protect the rights of children. These professionals have a responsibility to enforce their code of ethics within their practice, which often includes mandated reporting.

For example, in the field of Behavior Analysis, Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), therapists, and other professional employees follow the Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts (Code). The Code states that behavior analysts are to comply with the laws and regulations related to mandated reporting to carry out their responsibility to clients and their best interests. Similarly, many professional ethics outline the priority of child protection. Therefore, a mandated reporter can be summarized as a person who carries out the protection of children.

Types of Abuse: Child Abuse & Neglect

There are several instances that are deemed abuse and neglect. Many are easily recognized and overt, however, some circumstances may be more subtle and more difficult to identify. Overall, there are four common types of abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and neglect.

Physical abuse refers to any non-accidental physical injury or maltreatment of a child. This may include kicking, throwing, burning, shaking, blocking a child’s breathing, and striking a child with a closed fist. These and many other actions are likely to cause physical bodily harm. Not only are the actions considered physical abuse, but any bruises or abrasions would be considered potential signs of physical abuse and should be investigated.

Sexual abuse refers to any sexual offense committed against a child defined by the criminal code. This may include non-accidental touching of sexual or other intimate body parts of a child, not for medical purposes. Additionally, a child touching an adult for sexual gratification by an adult encouraging, aiding, or causing the child to complete the act also constitutes as sexual abuse.

Sexual exploitation includes, but is not limited to, prostitution, sexually explicit or pornographic activity to be viewed live or transmitted, or sexual activity with a child for sexual gratification. Sexual abuse and sexual exploitation differ in that sexual abuse typically surrounds engaging in or attempting to engage in a sexual offense with a child, whereas sexual exploitation typically includes using or attempting to use a child as a means of sexual gratification of another person.

Neglect or maltreatment means failure to act or actions, behaviors, or inactions that show a disregard for the child and causes a clear and present danger to the child’s health, welfare, or safety. A child does not have to have suffered physical abuse or harm to be considered to suffer from neglect, but neglect can sometimes result in injury or risk or injury. Also, inadequate environmental conditions that negativity impact a child’s quality of food, shelter, clothing, supervision, or health care can be viewed as neglect.

Process And Rules Of Reporting: Who, What, When, & To Whom

Many individuals are given the role of a “mandated reporter” without truly understanding the expectations and may ask themselves or others, “What is a mandated reporter required to do?” There are many aspects of mandated reporting to consider, but the simplest breakdown of what is needed for reporting is knowing who reports, what circumstances should be reported, and the time constraints surrounding reporting.

As suggested before, many individuals are charged with the responsibility of being a mandated reporter. Although anyone who has evidence or a reasonable cause to believe a child has suffered abuse and/or neglect can report it, there are specific professionals required by CAPTA identified as mandated reporters. Mostly, individuals who have frequent contact with children are typically considered mandated reporters. Many mandatory reporting professionals include social workers, professional school personnel, medical practitioners, mental health professionals, child-care providers, medical examiners and coroners, law enforcement, etc. Many states and organizations have lists of professionals who are considered mandated reporters for individuals to easily identify their responsibilities to report.

What does Mandated Reporter mean

When reporting information, there is specific information that mandated reporters must give. The information shared must include the name, address, and age of the child and parents/guardians, the type of abuse or neglect and details of such, information on any known previous incidences, and whether either parent is of Indian/Native ancestry.

Additionally, reporters should share information about risk and protective factors such as extended family, family strengths, parent resources, history of mental illness and/or substance abuse. Name of reporter is not necessary, but in order to document that the mandated reporter completed his or her duty, a name should be given.

Professionals becoming knowledgeable about the types of abuse will help in readily identifying and reporting these cases. Professionals should report any instances from the most common and easily identifiable types of abuse. Reporters should also learn signs of less recognizable abuse, such as neglect and even emotional abuse.

There are many ambiguous circumstances that cause professionals to be unsure if abuse and/or neglect has occurred. Reporters should contact a supervisor for their clinical judgement or contact child abuse authorities for suggestions on potential concerns. If a mandated reporter knowingly fails to report abuse or potential abuse, they can be charged legally, and have ethical consequences that may cause loss of employment, certification, or licensure.

When mandated reporters believe an instance of abuse has occurred, the report often must be made with 48 hours of the knowledge of occurrence. The nature of reporting is time sensitive to deter any future cases of neglect or abuse. However, any abuse or neglect believed to have occurred does not have to have occurred recently. Mandated reporters are still required to report any believed circumstances of abuse or neglect that had occurred in the past if the individual is still a child.

However, if the abuse or neglect occurred in the past to an individual during their children, but he or she is now an adult, it is not required to report that occurrence. Although it is not required to report, it may be helpful to gather more information or contact a supervisor as there may be other children currently in jeopardy of abuse and/or neglect.

Although CAPTA is a federal initiative to report instances of child abuse and neglect, each state and even each organization differs in the protocols of reporting. Generally, mandated reporters can report to Child Protective Services (CPS) or a law enforcement agency. Additionally, each school district may have specific reporting expectations that school professionals may need to learn.

Though procedures of reporting may vary, the focus of who to report concerns, evidence, or observed cases of abuse and neglect seems to be consistent. Employees are generally expected to inform a superior to begin the process of reporting, as the law requires a mandated reported to either make or report or cause a report to be made. 

References For What Does Mandated Reporter Mean?

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Cyara Coleman, Ed.S, MA, BCBA, LBA

Cyara Coleman, Ed.S, MA, BCBA, LBA

Cyara Coleman currently works as a Clinical Solutions Specialist with the Special Learning Clinical Team. Cyara has dedicated her professional career to helping individuals with mental health disorders and autism spectrum disorders lead healthy, productive, and full lives. She has worked directly with clients since 2015, providing ABA therapy and supervision for children and adults with ASD, as well as using CBT and psycho-education for mood disorders, personality disorders, schizophrenia disorders, and other mental health diagnoses for adolescents, adults, and military service men and women. She also has a passion for the advancement of equity, diversity, and inclusion for people of color, and for advocacy for diverse populations. Her goal is to educate about and bring awareness to mental health disorders and ASD and to create strategies and tools to help change mental health and behavior analysis for the better.


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