(Updated November 26 with new legislation. -HNO)
Due to the intense media coverage of the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, it seems that a blog post on mandated reporting in child welfare might be quite relevant and useful. Although the media can be helpful in bringing child welfare issues to the top of policymakers' priority lists (remember Caylee Anthony?), the media can also cause policymakers to develop hastily-written laws that do not necessarily take into account adverse side effects. This post will hopefully clarify mandated reporting laws in Minnesota and make readers aware of proposed legislation responding to the Penn State scandal.
Mandated reporting laws exist in all states and territories. Nationwide, everyone can voluntarily report; however, only 18 states actually require ALL persons to report, with 16 of those states also specifying professions. In all other states and territories, mandated reporting policies point out specific (generally child-related) professions whose members are considered mandated reporters. (adapted from Child Welfare Information Gateway)
Mandated reporting policies can be found in Minnesota Statutes 626.556.
Persons mandated to report in Minnesota are:
"Professional[s] or professional's delegate[s] who [are] engaged in the practice of the healing arts, social services, hospital administration, psychological or psychiatric treatment, child care, education, correctional supervision, probation and correctional services, or law enforcement."Also, members of the clergy are required to report only if their religious body does not privilege that information (e.g. Catholics are exempt if the priest was informed through confession).
Mandated reporters are required to report to local police, the county sheriff, or the local child welfare agency no later than 24 hours after becoming aware of the maltreatment. One cannot shift one's responsibility to report onto one's supervisor.
Currently, there is no particular distinction in Minnesota regarding mandated reporting by officials in higher education, and the policy is also somewhat confusing for coaches of youth sports. In discussing persons providing care for children (which includes school officials), the term "school" explicitly refers to elementary, middle, or high school, and there is no mention of coaches outside a school capacity. However, Minnesota attorney Ann Ahlstrom recently clarified that mandated reporting laws apply to all coaches of youth sports, regardless of where the coaching takes place.
In Minnesota, Representative Ryan Winkler has issued a statement saying that he intends on introducing legislation that would require ALL persons in Minnesota to report child maltreatment, regardless of profession. At the federal level, several individuals have expressed plans to introduce mandated reporting laws, or have already introduced them:
- Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said yesterday that she will be introducing the Child Protection Act, which "would compel states to enact child-abuse reporting laws or risk losing some federal aid," as well as require anyone on federal property to report abuse.
- Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid Act yesterday, which would also require states to set up laws that would require adults to report suspected child maltreatment, or risk losing federal funding from CAPTA.
- Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) plans on introducing the Federal Zero Tolerance of Child Sexual Abuse Act, which would prevent federal funds from being distributed to institutions where child sexual abuse was not immediately reported.
- Yesterday, Senator Robert Menéndez (D-NJ) introduced "A bill to ensure that States have enacted criminal statutes that require individuals to report child abuse to law enforcement or child protective agencies."
- Representative Karen Bass introduced H.R. 3486: Speak Out to Stop Child Abuse Act on November 18, which would require states receiving federal CAPTA funds to have in effect laws mandating all persons to report child sexual abuse or risk criminal penalties.
What do you think about this "knee-jerk" reaction, caused by the media in high-profile child abuse and neglect cases? Do you have any thoughts on these new bills? What do you think about requiring all persons to report on child maltreatment? And just out of curiosity, how does mandated reporting work in your state?