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Adverse Childhood Experiences

Child Abuse Reporting Within an Institution

Are you a mandatory reporter who works in a hospital, school or organization?

Key points

  • Mandatory reporters may face greater risks when employed in institutional or organizational settings.
  • Despite state reporting laws, institutions may not adhere to those requirements.
  • Mandatory reporters may be unaware of important reporting information.
Source: Pixabay/IqbalStock

Mandatory reporters who work in educational and institutional settings face a greater risk of retaliation after reporting suspected child abuse such as getting fired, having their identity released to the alleged perpetrator or other entity, and experiencing a licensure board complaint. This may be compounded by the fact that these reporters may lack institutional support for reporting and may be unsure about what is reportable.

Though state law may require the person to report directly to child protective service or the police (outside of the institution), research has found that many principals conduct an internal investigation before reporting which is noncompliant with state reporting laws. Some schools may not allow direct reporting or lack written child abuse reporting policies or procedures. This may be more common in private or religious institutions.

To reduce risk as a mandatory reporter and ensure you are adhering to the reporting law in your state, here are factors to consider: What is the reporting law in your state, do you have a written copy and understanding of the reporting policy where you work, does your employer offer training for reporters, will your identity be protected and is there a safety protocol in place, where can you turn if you unsure whether or not to report or are discouraged from doing so, what if you are required to report up the chain of command and those higher up fail to report, what if your employer is not adhering to state reporting laws and what should you do if you face retaliation after you report suspected abuse?

Source: Pixabay/geralt

If you cannot answer these questions, consider asking for more guidance from your place of employment. If your employer does not offer training, pursue proper training independently to gain more clarity. If you are still unclear, you can consult with a colleague, your professional liability insurance company, or your licensure board. You can do this while protecting the child's identity (omit identifying information) and document the content of the consultations. Research demonstrates that those who receive training are more likely to report suspected abuse and less likely to face retaliation. Further, regular mandatory reporter training is important because state reporting laws change and differ markedly from state to state.

Mandatory reporters play a critical role in helping to protect children. It is important to feel confident in your ability to identify what is reportable and the specific process for doing so in your working environment.


Implementing A Collaborative Support Model for Educators Reporting Child Maltreatment, Bell and Singh, 2016

Institutional (Chain of Command) Child Abuse Reporting: An Exploratory Overview, Sippel, Meister, and Guardia, 2024

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