Monday, December 26, 2011

Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse Suspects

In the aftermath of the Penn State controversy regarding Sandusky and allegations of child abuse, some politicians are trying to expand the laws for mandated reporting of suspected child abuse. Sponsored by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid Act would require mandatory reporting of incidents of child abuse or neglect for all adults. The definition of child abuse or neglect under the law would also be expanded to include “any deliberate act, on the part of an individual other than a parent or caretaker, that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, or sexual abuse or exploitation, or that presents an imminent risk of serious harm to a child.”

According to the Family Defense Center, the four main changes made in the law introduced by these amendments include:
1. An expansion of the definition of child abuse to include “any deliberate act, on the part of an individual other than a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, or sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm;”

2. Inclusion of mandatory reporting of abuse by non-parents and non-caretakers when a “deliberate” act results in serious harm to a child;

3. A requirement that states provide a system allowing reports of abuse or neglect be made to both the child protective service agency and law enforcement agency, whereas current law only requires states provide a system for reporting to the child protective service agency;

4. A requirement that mandatory reports of child abuse be made “by any adult.”

This video also does a good job of highlighting some of the concerns people are having about the proposed law. I really liked how everyone feels a little different about the idea. The conversation does get a bit off track with the old slippery slope argument, but they bring it back near the end.

I do think the claim that some people may purposely abuse the system a bit absurd since that's a possibility with our current system. In fact, I have first hand experience with someone calling child protective services on us in order to basically punish us. The situation was annoying and quite intimidating, but after an interview the case was dropped. Opponents of the proposed law make it sound like social workers are going to be snatching away children on the mere whisper of abuse. It's a bit unrealistic in my opinion.

I do think there are valid concerns about the funding a law like this would require though. Even a substantial increase in calls to hot lines would require more resources and that's not even including the need for more social workers to investigate the new influx of tips. There's also concern about the wording the bill uses. What constitutes "serious emotional harm?" The Family Defense Center breaks down numerous concerns far better than I ever could, but I'm still not sure how I feel about the bill. Many states already have mandatory reporting for all adults and there doesn't appear to be any difference from what I can see.

I think we can all agree that more needs to be done to protect children, but I think educating people how to identify signs of abuse would go a lot further than something like this. I'm a firm believer that having an open and honest dialogue is always the first step to solving any sort of problem though and at least this has got us talking about it for the moment.

Until a Kardashian steals away our attention of course.

1 comment:

  1. I agree--passing laws isn't going to help, what will help is EDUCATING people. What to look for. What is abuse, what is not. Who to call, how to report.

    I've been a mandated reporter since the first time I stepped in a classroom and believe me, I take the role very, very seriously. Even though I'm not teaching right now, I still consider myself a mandated reporter because it is the right thing to do, not because of some law or some contract I once signed.

    I once called the police when I could hear the child next door to me screaming "You're hurting me!!" through our shared wall. She was not my student, I had no role in her life except neighbor. But as I told the responding officers, I would rather be safe than sorry--and they heartily agreed and thanked me for calling.

    Anyway. I'm rambling. LOL

    The bottom line, as you said, is that it's great that we're talking about this--I hope the conversation will continue, but then, Katy Perry and Russell Brand just announced their divorce, so...


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