In any investigation of suspected child abuse or neglect, all persons participating in the investigation of the case must, first and foremost, consider the needs of the child victim and do whatever is necessary to prevent any further harm.
CANRA defines child abuse and neglect, creates specific procedures for reporting and investigating, and imposes obligations on individuals in certain professions (known as “mandated reporters”) to report suspected abuse and neglect.
Making a report of suspected child abuse can be a stressful and worrisome process for a mandated reporter. Being fully prepared – with knowledge of the requirements of the law and of the rules for submitting a report – can help ease the difficulty of the experience.
WHAT MUST BE REPORTED
Under the terms of the law, a legally mandated reporter must make a report whenever he or she, “in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment, has knowledge of or observes a child whom the mandated reporter knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of child abuse or neglect.”
“Reasonable suspicion” does not require certainty that child abuse or neglect has occurred nor does it require a specific allegation or medical indication of child abuse or neglect.
Child abuse or neglect must be reported when the victim is a person under the age of 18.
The term ''child abuse or neglect'' is defined by law as:
Physical injury or death inflicted by other than accidental means upon a child by another person.
Sexual abuse (including sexual assault and sexual exploitation).
Neglect, encompassing “severe” neglect (including endangering the child’s health and failure to protect the child against severe malnutrition) and “general” neglect (including failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care).
Willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child.
Unlawful corporal punishment or injury.
''Child abuse or neglect'' does not include:
- A mutual affray between minors
- An injury caused by reasonable and necessary force used by a peace officer acting within the course and scope of his or her employment as a peace officer.
Information That Must Be Included in a Report
The following information must be included in a report of child abuse or neglect:
- The name, business address, and telephone number of the mandated reported.
- The capacity that makes the person a mandated reporter
- The information that gave rise to the reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect and the source or sources of that information.
Legally Mandated Reporters
Legally mandated reporters include a wide variety of job titles and positions. They include: employees in public positions, health care personnel, law enforcement employees, commercial film and photographic print processors, clergy, employees or volunteers in child advocate programs, child visitation monitors, animal control officers, and humane society officers.
Employees in public positions include all of the following:
Classified employees at public schools
Public assistance workers
Youth center/organization employees/administrators
Head Start program teachers
Officer or supervisor of child welfare and attendance
Employees of child care institutions
Administrators/employees of organizations whose duties require direct contact and supervision of children
Licensing workers/evaluators employed by a licensing agency
Certificated pupil personnel employees
Employees of county offices of education or the State Department of Education whose duties bring the employee into contact with children on a regular basis
Employees of a school district police or security department
Day camp administrators
Licensees / administrators / employees of licensed community care or child day care facilities
Administrators/counselors in a child abuse prevention program in a public or private school
If known, the following information also must be included in a report:
The child’s name
The child’s address
The child’s present location
The child’s school, grade, and class, if applicable
The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the child’s parents or guardians
The name, address, telephone number, and other relevant personal information about the person or persons who might have abused or neglected the child
The mandated reporter is required to make a report even if some of the above information is not known or is uncertain.
How Reports Are Made
Reports of suspected child abuse or neglect may be made to any of the following:
The initial report must be made immediately or as soon as is practicably possible by telephone.Then, the mandated reporter must prepare and send, fax or electronically transmit a written follow-up report within
36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident. The report can include any non-privileged documentary evidence the mandated reporter possesses relating to the incident.When two or more persons-both of whom are required to report-jointly have knowledge of a known or suspected instance of child abuse/neglect, a single report may be made and signed by a member of this team, provided that members are in agreement with this arrangement.
Failure to Make a Report
Any mandated reporter who fails to report an incident of known or reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months confinement in a county jail, by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.
However, if the abuse or neglect results in death or great bodily injury to the child, the punishment is increased to up to one year in a county jail, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both.
Because failure to report is a continuing offense, the statute of limitations does not begin to run until the failure to report is discovered.
IMMUNITY AND SAFEGUARDS
No mandated reporter can be held civilly or criminally liable for any report required.
This immunity applies even if the mandated reporter acquired the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect outside of his or her professional capacity or outside the scope of his or her employment. Supervisors and administrators are not allowed to impede or inhibit the reporting duties of a mandated reporter and cannot subject mandated reporters to any sanction for making reports.
Although employers may establish internal procedures to facilitate reporting and apprise supervisors and administrators of reports, these procedures cannot require any employee required to make reports to disclose his or her identity to the employer.
Reports of suspected child abuse or neglect, and all information contained in the reports, are confidential and may only be disclosed among agencies receiving or investigating the report and in other limited contexts.
Responsibilities of Agencies Employing Mandated Reporters
Before an employee begins working at a position that requires mandated reporting, the employer must provide a document informing the employee that he or she is a mandated reporter and advise the employee of the accompanying reporting responsibilities and confidentiality rights. The employee must sign and acknowledge receipt of the document.
Employers are strongly encouraged to provide their employees who are mandated reporter.