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A mandatory reporter is a person or institution legally required to report cases of suspected child abuse to legal authorities.

All states, the District of Columbia, and American territories (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands) have laws identifying professions, businesses, and organizations that must notify the state’s legal authorities if individuals suspect a child is being maltreated.

Mandatory reporters usually have frequent contact with children such as teachers, daycare providers, and doctors. This list and the controlling laws vary by state and region, and they are often amended by local, state, or territorial governments. Institutions (particularly private organizations) usually adopt policies on how to handle reporting of child abuse.

Here is a short list of professionals who are considered mandatory reporters:

  • Social workers
  • Teachers, principals, and other school personnel
  • Physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers
  • Counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals
  • Child care providers
  • Medical examiners or coroners
  • Law enforcement officers

Usually, a mandatory reporter must notify authorities when the reporter, in his or her official capacity, suspects or has reason to believe that a child has been maltreated or neglected. A reporter is often required to make a report if a child is in a situation that can be “reasonably” expected to cause harm.

About 18 states and Puerto Rico require anyone (regardless of profession) to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child. Laws vary a great deal from state to state, so if you are unsure about your status as a mandatory reporter, visit State Statutes: Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect. This document is current through November 2013, but includes a state/territory breakdown to check the legal status applicable to your location.

Reviewed by Dr. Eva Benmeleh, September 2020

Takeaways

  • Child abuse and neglect are often noted by adults caring for children in a professional way.
  • Most professionals have a legal obligation to report suspected abuse of the children under their care.
  • Anyone can report concerns of abuse and neglect to their local authorities.

References

  1. Child Welfare Information Gateway. State Statutes: Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect.
  2. National Child Abuse Hotline.

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