What is a Mandated Reporter?

A person who wants to earn a degree in applied behavior analysis, social work or psychology may want to know, “What is a mandated reporter?” The concept of a mandated reporter relates to a legal obligation to report suspected abuse to the police. Each state has its own definition of who is a mandated reporter, and knowing this information is essential to people who work in education, healthcare, social work, counseling, psychology, law enforcement, and many other professions.

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What Mandated Reporting Means

Mandated reporting means a legal obligation to file a written report either on paper or in writing when an adult has reason to suspect abuse or neglect. In most cases, mandated reporting is related to child abuse or neglect, but some states may also include people with disabilities and elder abuse and neglect in their laws around mandated reporting.

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Who Is a Mandated Reporter

All states have their own listing of who is a mandated reporter. Most of these lists are similar in that they include teachers, teaching assistants, preschool teachers, and childcare providers. They also include healthcare providers, such as doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, speech therapists, nurses’ aides, X-ray technicians, and paramedics. States also typically include medical examiners, employees of healthcare facilities and health departments, police officers, firefighters, social services workers, clergy and religious workers, library workers, school employees, camp counselors and anyone else who is paid to supervise children.

What Mandated Reporters Have to Report

Every state’s requirements on what constitutes abuse differ a little. However, almost all states mandate that reporters formally notify the police department about suspected neglect, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. Some examples of neglect include a child who arrives at school in the winter without warm clothes, a child who is not fed at home or a child who has hygiene problems. Some examples of abuse include a child who has many bruises in different stages of healing in places that are unlikely to be from accidents on the playground, defensive wounds, burn marks and bites. A mandated reporter does not have to provide evidence, such as in the case of suspected sexual abuse.

Consequences for a Mandated Reporter Who Fails to Report

In almost all states, there are criminal consequences if a mandated reporter fails to report suspected abuse, explains Keep Kids Safe. The legal consequences include being charged with a misdemeanor crime. The penalties for a conviction are different in each state, but they include a fine and/or jail time. A person could also lose their professional license or their job if they fail to report suspected abuse. The law provides immunity to mandated reporters in the event that there was no actual abuse occurring. This means that the mandated reporter cannot be held criminally or civilly liable if they make a report with justification and it turns out to not be abuse.

Understanding the idea of who is a mandated reporter and when and to whom they must report what is a critical part of complying with the law in many professions. Mandated reporters have a legal responsibility, and taking it seriously comes with the understanding of the purpose of reporting suspected abuse. Knowing the answer to, “What is a mandated reporter?” could help a person decide on a career path.