Article

Mandated reporting is still a policy with reason: empirical evidence and philosophical grounds.

School of Law, Queensland University of Technology, GPO Box 2434, Brisbane, QLD 4001, Australia.
Child Abuse & Neglect (Impact Factor: 2.47). 06/2008; 32(5):511-6. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.06.010
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT A major criticism of mandated reporting laws is that they produce many unsubstantiated reports, increasing workload for child protective services, wasting resources, and reducing the quality of service given to known deserving children and families (Ainsworth, 2002). Some critics go further: Melton (2005) claimed mandated reporting is now "a policy without reason". Melton stated "the primary problem is no longer case-finding" (2005, p. 10), and argued that "common sense and empirical research" show mandated reporting is "a bankrupt policy" (2005, p. 15). Further, Melton proposed that jurisdictions with these laws should revise their systems “to facilitate voluntary assistance to children and families—to create or sustain the norms of caring that prevent harm to children” (2005, p. 15), and urged countries without a US-type system to adopt another model. However, we argue that without a system of mandated reporting, a society will be far less able to protect children and assist parents and families, because many cases of abuse and neglect will not come to the attention of authorities and helping agencies. We accept that mandated reporting schemes are imperfect. But, using child safety as the primary concern, and drawing on evidence from several nations, we argue that a child protection system needs a form of case identification beyond voluntary help-seeking; that mandated reporting produces a large number of substantiated reports and to sacrifice this compromises child protection; that the most serious problems in systems having mandated reporting appear to lie not with the reports, but with responses; and that the economic and social justice advantages of mandated reporting far outweigh any disadvantages.

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