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What Should A Mandated Reporter Do Before Reporting?

What Should A Mandated Reporter Do Before Reporting?

What Should A Mandated Reporter Do Before Reporting?

What Should A Mandated Reporter Do Before Reporting?

As a mandatory reporter of child abuse and neglect, you’re prepared for the possibility of making a report to protect a child. You understand how critical your participation can be in helping to prevent child abuse and ensure the kids you come into contact with don’t suffer from the short and long-term consequences of abuse.

What should you do before reporting if you suspect a child under your care or supervision is being mistreated?

What Should a Mandated Reporter Do Before Reporting Any Allegations of Abuse or Neglect?

Your reporting requirements can vary based on your state’s legislation, and state-specific training can help you understand your specific legal requirements. However, the following guidelines can help you understand what you need to do before you report, regardless of the state that determined your status as a mandatory reporter.

Before you make a report of child abuse or neglect, you should:

Have a Reasonable Suspicion of Abuse or Neglect

Every child abuse report starts with a reasonable suspicion of a mandatory reporter that something isn’t right.

It may be a significant change in a child’s demeanor and behavior.

You may notice bruises, burn marks, or broken bones that can’t be explained.

It may come in the form of increased absenteeism, decreased school performance, or social withdrawal.

An adult caregiver of a child under your supervision may display red-flag behaviors that alarm you.

You may notice startling physical changes or signs of self-harm.

Whether it is physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, there are usually signs when a child becomes a victim. Behavioral changes, physical symptoms, and various clues are left behind when a child is abused.

As a mandatory reporter, your job is to pick up on those clues, no matter how subtle they may be.

In many instances, you don’t even have to look very closely; a child may confide in you as a trusted educator, caregiver, or trusted adult. You may receive information from a third party or even receive an admission from the perpetrator.

As a mandated reporter, you are not required to collect evidence to make or prove a case.

If you have noticed enough red flags to substantiate your suspicions, you have a duty to report.

Mandated reporters are required to report when they have reasonable suspicion that a child is suffering, or is at substantial risk of suffering, from abuse or neglect. You are also required to report reasonable suspicion that a child is being sexually exploited or trafficked.

Conduct a Bias Check

Before you make a report, take a moment to weigh your suspicions against possible biases.

Consider the implication of cultural differences.

You may have grown up in a home where every child had their own room. When one of the children in your care or supervision tells you they share a bedroom with their parents and four siblings, your first response may be one of alarm.

But is this a sign of possible abuse or neglect, or the result of a culture where multiple families sharing a home — and multiple people sharing a single room — is considered the norm?

A child being raised in a culturally different manner than what you’re accustomed to doesn’t indicate abuse.

Implicit bias, the unconsciously held perceptions, beliefs, attitudes, and prejudices that result from one’s upbringing and influences, can create a hazy, gray area regarding mandated reporting.

You are a human being, making observations through the lens of your human experiences and influences.

Any subconscious decision you make is colored by your implicit biases.

You may rush to excuse obvious signs of abuse, making plausible excuses for a family because they share similar traits to your own. Or you may do the opposite and immediately suspect wrongdoing in a family because of perceived differences from your own cultural background.

When it comes to making a report, take a moment to consider whether your reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect is being skewed through a lens of bias or cultural differences.

If you’re unsure, consult with other professionals/ reporters who may help you separate fact from bias.

If you still feel that the red flags and signs of abuse stand on their own merit, then it is time to make your report.

You MUST Make a Report

As a mandated reporter, you MUST make a report when you have a reasonable suspicion of abuse. If any objective, reasonable person would agree that your suspicions are substantiated by red-flag behaviors, clues, or physical signs, a report must be made to ensure the child’s safety.

It is not enough to tell another reporter or supervisor and then walk away from the situation. If two reporters are involved in the situation, it is still your responsibility to make sure a report is made properly.

It is your responsibility and duty as the mandated reporter to make the report.

A report is not a formal accusation.

You are simply registering your concern and requesting the appropriate agencies make further investigation.

State reporting requirements may vary, but in California, a report is made by phone call to a child welfare agency and then followed up with a written report.

Be prepared to provide as much information as possible, such as identifying information about the child, the suspected abuse, where the suspected abuse occurred, the nature of any injuries, information about any person you suspect is responsible, and other information that will help the authorities begin an investigation.

You will also be asked to provide your own information, but don’t worry — your report is anonymous, and the family will not be notified that you were the one who made the report.

What a Mandated Reporter Should NOT Do Before Filing a Report

It is not your responsibility to begin an official investigation before filing a report. Your reasonable suspicion, substantiated by signs of abuse or red flags from the child or caregiver, can be enough to warrant a report.

You do not have to engage in fact-finding.

You do not have to interview the family or potential suspects.

You do not have to ask around to neighbors, friends, or other people who may know the family if they suspect any issues.

You are not responsible for gathering evidence, conducting an investigation, or “making a case” in front of a judge or jury.

Your duty is to protect the children under your care or supervision. You can do that with empathy, compassion, and care.

You do that by keeping a sharp eye out for behavioral signs, physical symptoms, or red flags that indicate a potential problem.

You do that by staying up-to-date on training and remembering the correct procedures for making a report.

You do that by remaining a trusted adult for a child who may need one in an uncertain time, and by making a report so children and families in need can get the support and help they deserve.

Recognize the signs of abuse.