As a social worker, you’ve heard about child abuse and neglect, and probably learned about it, but what are you supposed to do in these situations? To answer the other questions, we need some context and more detail.
You may have heard the term “mandated reporter” and wondered: Am I a mandated reporter? This article will explain what a mandated reporter is and why there are mandated reporters.
For the purposes of this article and series, we’ll be focusing on the role of social workers as mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect.
Most social workers in practice today have always been mandated reporters, but mandated reporting itself is only about 50 years old, and the role of mandated reporter is constantly evolving.
There were more than three million reports of suspected child abuse and neglect in 2011, yet there is no way of knowing exactly how many reports are based on the suspicions of social workers.
However, more than one-half of all reports of suspected child abuse or neglect are made by professional reporters, including child care providers, educational personnel, law enforcement personnel, medical personnel, mental health professionals, and social services personnel (U. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 2011).
Abuse was once thought to be the problem of impoverished immigrant families with alcoholic fathers, but this study showed that abused children came from all walks of life.
Most often the term “mandated reporter” refers to individuals required to report suspicions of child abuse or neglect, but in some states the law may require some people to report elder abuse, institutional corruption, or other behaviors.We’ll also discuss the social worker’s role as mandated reporter and tease out when you’re a mandated reporter, and when you’re not.Other articles in this series will provide more detail on what, when, and how to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect.One of the most popular policy proposals was mandating medical personnel to report suspicions of abuse to the police.The idea was that if medical personnel could identify and report suspicions of child abuse, the government could step in and prevent irreversible harm to the child, or even death.Since social workers serve communities in a variety of roles, reports from social workers could be classified into many of the categories listed above.A frequent question of new social workers is: Am I always a mandated reporter?Although some social work settings—such as schools, hospitals, and mental health clinics—are more likely than others, like nursing homes, to yield suspicions of child maltreatment, all social workers regardless of setting are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect.As mandated reporters and ethical professionals, social workers have a professional obligation to seek out information to understand their legal requirement to report.For the first 75 years of child protective systems in the United States, private agencies like the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children provided the means through which abused children were identified and protected from further harm.State and federal governments were largely removed from these processes until societal pressure required governmental response in the mid-twentieth century.