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Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse

National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information

Current through June 2003

 

Each State and U.S. Territory designates individuals, typically by professional group, who are mandated by law to report child maltreatment. Any person, however, may report incidents of abuse or neglect.

Individuals Typically Mandated to Report

Individuals typically designated as mandatory reporters have frequent contact with children. Such individuals include:

  • Health care workers

  • School personnel

  • Child care providers

  • Social workers

  • Law enforcement officers

  • Mental health professionals

Some States also mandate animal control officers, veterinarians, commercial film or photograph processors, substance abuse counselors, and firefighters to report abuse or neglect. Four States--Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, and South Dakota--include domestic violence workers on the list of mandated reporters. Approximately eighteen States require all citizens to report suspected abuse or neglect regardless of profession.

Standard for Making a Report

Typically a report must be made when the reporter suspects or has reasons to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected.

Privileged Communications

Approximately 34 States and Territories specify in their reporting laws when a communication is privileged.2 Privileged communications, which is the statutory recognition of the right to maintain the confidentiality of communications between professionals and their clients or patients, are exempt from mandatory reporting laws. The privilege most widely recognized by the States is that of attorney-client. The privilege pertaining to clergy-penitent also is frequently recognized, but limited to situations in which a clergy person becomes aware of child abuse through confessions or in the capacity of spiritual advisor. However, five States, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia, deny the clergy-penitent privilege. Very few States recognize the physician-patient and mental health professional-patient privileges as exempt from mandatory reporting laws.

To see how your State addresses this issue, visit the State Statutes Search

  • 1 - The word approximately is used to stress the fact that statutes are constantly being revised and updated
  • 2 - Privilege communications may be addressed in other sections of State law, typically in rules of evidence of civil procedure.