Mandatory reporters are individuals who, based on their professions, have a legal requirement to report suspicions of child neglect or abuse. But not every instance of child abuse gets reported, even when mandated by law.
What happens if a mandated reporter doesn't report?
An astonishing 700,000 children are victims of child abuse in the U.S. every year. And approximately 5 children die as a result of child abuse every single day.
These devastating statistics are the reason every state in the U.S. imposes penalties such as fines or imprisonment for failing to report suspected child abuse.
Failing to Report Child Abuse or Neglect
In Florida, a mandatory reporter who fails to report suspected child abuse or neglect can be charged with a felony, and any institution of higher learning (including state universities and non-public colleges) can be fined up to $1 million dollars.
Florida's penalties may be high, but they're not the only state that imposes fines and imprisonment for failure to report.
Failure to report is classified as a misdemeanor in 40 states. In many states, these misdemeanors can be upgraded to felonies.
- Arizona classifies felonies for serious offenses such as child prostitution or incest
- Minnesota classifies felonies when a child has died because of lack of medical care
- Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, and Guam classify second violations as felonies
Obstructing Child Abuse Reports
Approximately ten U.S. states impose penalties on employers who engage in any activity that prevents or prohibits a report of suspected abuse or neglect. Six of these states classify preventing a report as a misdemeanor.
In Connecticut, any employer who interferes or obstructs an employee or volunteer from making a report will be charged with a felony and a fine.
In Pennsylvania, any person who uses force, violence, threats, or offers bribes to prevent a report has committed a felony.
Making False Reports
Failing to report child abuse can be a serious offense, but so can false reporting.
Approximately 29 states carry penalties for any person who intentionally makes a false report of child abuse or neglect.
In many states, false reporting is classified as a misdemeanor. But Florida, Illinois, Tennessee, and Texas classify false reporting as a felony.
While some states, such as California, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, and Nebraska, don't impose penalties for false reporting, they do remove immunity from civil or criminal action that is provided to reporters in the event of false reporting. In other words, you may not face jail time, but you could face lawsuits if you falsely report child abuse.
Reporting suspicions of child abuse is a serious business, bringing the potential for fines and imprisonment if you fail to report. That's why mandated reporter training is critical for mandated reporters to get the information they need to correctly identify and report suspected abuse.
Find out where to take your mandated reporter training so you can get the information and tools you need to confidently do your duty to prevent child abuse and neglect.