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


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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Available from: Donald Bross, Apr 16, 2014
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    • "Mandatory reporting is defined as the legislated requirement to report suspected cases of child sexual abuse, including who is mandated to make a report and about whom, what types of abuse are to be reported, and which child protection authorities receive such reports (Higgins, Bromfield, Richardson, Holzer, & Berlyn, 2009). The concept originated in the United States, with Canada, Australia, and some other countries (e.g., Northern Ireland) implementing similarly investigative statutory codes (Mathews & Kenny, 2008). Many other countries, such as England, Scotland, and Wales, have child protection systems oriented toward public health, with interagency protocols, professional obligations, and voluntary reporting, although these are very similar in practice to statutory requirements (Wallace & Bunting, 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Teachers in many countries are mandated by law, professional codes, or education authorities to report child abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse. However, teachers may not receive adequate preparation for such sensitive interventions, as preservice teacher education degrees provide very few or no compulsory courses on child protection and crucially related, lifelong health and well-being issues. So, where do preservice teachers source their information regarding the mandatory reporting of such abuse? This research examines preservice teachers' professional university education for their sources of information about mandatory reporting and child sexual abuse. A sample cohort of 56 final 4th-year university bachelor of education (primary school) student teachers in Australia identified the sources they used regarding 10 important aspects of child protection. The results suggest that most did not learn about mandatory reporting or child sexual abuse, and others cited sparse and sporadic public media as their primary information source. These findings, building on previous evidence about inadequate or nonexistent preservice mandatory intervention courses in primary teacher education, may guide the design of appropriate training responses enhancing educational professionals' knowledge, competencies, skills, and efficacies as mandatory reporters of child sexual abuse.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Journal of Child Sexual Abuse
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    • "Eighteen states and Puerto Rico have opted for universal reporting, subject to only a few, specifically described limitations which usually include attorneys (Persky, 2012). While there are presumed benefits with universal reporting in that more cases may be identified by authorities, there is also potential harm by their overwhelming the child welfare system with unsubstantiated reports from non-professionals who are presumably less well-equipped to evaluate CM risk (Mathews & Bross, 2008; Melton, 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: The effects of universal mandated reporting laws on child maltreatment reporting rates have not been systematically evaluated. To better understand the effects of universal reporting, the objectives of the present study are: (1) to evaluate the relationship of total and confirmed child maltreatment report rates with state universal reporting laws; (2) to determine whether demographic characteristics modify these effects; and (3) to assess whether these relationships, if any, hold with confirmed reports of specific child maltreatment types. We used county-level data from the U.S. National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System for the year 2000 in linear regression models to evaluate reporting rates for total reports, confirmed reports, and confirmed maltreatment types in a cross-sectional, ecological analysis. We compared these rates while controlling for child and community demographic variables such as child population size, gender, race, ethnicity, school attendance, disability, poverty, housing, high school graduation, parental marriage, religiosity, unemployment and crime. We found that counties in states with laws mandating that all adults must report suspected child maltreatment have significantly higher rates of total and confirmed reports even after controlling for several demographic characteristics previously associated with CM in the literature. However, among CM types, universal reporting was associated only with higher rates of confirmed neglect. Since it is unclear whether changing state law or policy will enhance case identification in states that do not currently require universal reporting, policymakers should consider whether universal reporting will meaningfully improve CM identification as they consider changes to state statutes.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2014 · Children and Youth Services Review
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    • "Other benefits (e.g., sets the stage for maltreatment database; " in good faith " principle protects professionals in fulfilling reporting) and disadvantages (e.g., open to " threshold " interpretations on degree of suspicion, harm, and risk) have been noted (Gilbert et al., 2009). A key concern is that a report or an investigation should not be the sole intervention for a family in crisis or confronting significant challenges to ensuring child health and safety (e.g., Leventhal & Krugman, 2012; Mathews & Bross, 2008; Melton, 2005b). Reporting laws are only the basis for subsequent implementation protocols in accountability and service provision. "
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    ABSTRACT: A human rights perspective places the care for children in the obligation sphere. The duty to protect from violence is an outcome of having a declaration confirming inalienable human rights. Nationally, rights may be reflected in constitutions, charters, and criminal codes. Trans-nationally, the United Nation's (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) prioritizes a child's basic human rights, given their dependent status. UN CRC signatory countries commit to implementing minimal standards of care for minors. Laws requiring professionals to report child maltreatment to authorities is one practical strategy to implement minimal child protection and service standards. Mandatory reporting laws officially affirms the wrong of maltreatment, and the right of children. Mandatory reporting can be conceptualized as part of a resilience process, where the law sets the stage for child safety and well-being planning. Although widely enacted law, sizeable research gaps exist in terms of statistics on mandatory reporting compliance in key settings; obstacles and processes in mandatory reporting; the provision of evidence-based training to support the duty to report; and the training-reporting-child outcomes relationship, this latter area being virtually non-existent. The fact that mandatory reporting is not presently evidence-based cannot be separated from this lack of research activity in mandatory reporting. Reporting is an intervention that requires substantial inter-professional investment in research to guide best practices, with methodological expectations of any clinical intervention. Child abuse reporting is consistent with a clinician's other duties to report (i.e., suicidality, homicidality), practice-based skills (e.g., delivering "bad" news, giving assessment feedback), and the pervasive professional principle of "best interests" of the child. Resilience requires the presence of resources and, mandated reporting, is one such resource to the maltreated child. Practice strategies identified in the literature are discussed.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2013 · Child abuse & neglect
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