Why Child Abuse Mandated Reporters Report

The term “mandated reporter” refers to those people who are legally required to report to the authorities alleged cases of neglect and abuse of minors.

If a mandated reporter suspects that a minor is suffering from either neglect or child abuse, the person has no choice but to submit a child abuse report to the authorities, such as child protective services or law enforcement. Failure to do this comes with penalties.

Very commonly, cases of child abuse and neglect that arise in California’s legal system are prompted by reports made by mandated reporters.

Different jurisdictions in the US come with different guidelines that mandated reporters should follow when creating their child abuse report. If the mandated reporter fails to follow the created guidelines, the person that is accused of child abuse and neglect could easily walk.

It is important to note that the simple fact that a child abuse report has been brought against someone (such as yourself) doesn't mean that the said person will be found guilty in the legal system.

The major elements of mandatory reporting are: the person that is expected to report, what kind of neglect and abuse that must be reported, where the child abuse report should be submitted, and so on.

What a Mandated Reporter is not Compelled to do by Law

A mandated reporter is not an investigator, meaning that he or she is not compelled to find out what is happening. He or she is not expected to ask questions, as that is the job of investigators. Their only duty is to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to the authorities. The relevant authority takes over and carries out the necessary investigation.

Who is Mandated to Make a Child Abuse Report?

Depending on a person's occupation, he or she may be mandated to make a child abuse report when suspicious arises. The law has a list of particular peoples whose jobs and positions make them child abuse mandated reporters who are compelled by law to make those reports.

Most of the jobs on this list are those that deal with children regularly. The common examples are police officers, nurses, doctors, as well as teachers.

Others that are expected to make a child abuse report when necessary are:

  • Those that work in daycare facilities
  • Those working in dental offices
  • Medical workers
  • Social workers
  • Any person working in the education sector
  • Computer technicians
  • Photograph processers
  • Firefighters
  • Substance abuse counselors
  • Clergy
  • And anyone who deals with or supervises minors in the course of their employment
The Differences Between Mandatory and Permissive Reporting

Mandatory reporting is compulsory for those in the aforementioned occupations. If a nurse sees child abuse or neglect and neglects or refuses to report it, he or she can be charges with a crime and subject to imprisonment for up to a year. This is because the nurse is mandated by law to report.

In the case of permissive reporting, the reporter is not a member of the aforementioned occupations, but voluntarily reports a case of child abuse or neglect. The reporter is not mandated to make a child abuse report but decides to make one anyway.

Child Abuse Mandated Reporters are Protected Under California Law

Quite often, the person suspected of committing child abuse (i.e., the alleged perpetrator of child abuse or neglect) is upset at the reporter for making a report. In fact, many accused want to sue the reporter for slander, libel or making a false police report, for instance.

However, the law protects reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect. The reason why the law protects them from lawsuits is because the California legislature has decided that it wants to encourage the reporting of child abuse, and if people who make reports are susceptible or vulnerable to being sued, then they would be discouraged from making the report. This vulnerability could lead to vulnerable children being continually subjected to abuse.

One way in which the law protects reporters is by mandating the confidentiality of their identity. This is why social workers are not supposed to let an accused person know who actually made the report of suspected child abuse.


Mandated reporters have no choice but to report. It is not a choice of theirs, unlike in the case of permissive reporters. (See Daniel C. Swinton. Criminal Liability, Failure to Report Child Abuse, School Personnel: An Examination of History, Policy and Caselaw.)

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