“Without a meaningful consequence for violating Oregon’s mandatory reporting law, there is little incentive for compliance. Without a real risk of meaningful punishment, laws that impose a duty to act have no deterrent effect.”— Erin K. Olson, Portland attorney and a co-founder of the Oregon Crime Victims Law Center.
What is a mandated reporter? A mandated reporter is someone who is required by law to report suspected abuse (child abuse, domestic violence, child neglect, and elder abuse all have specific lists of those who are mandated to report such abuse). In the case of child abuse and child neglect, the list of mandated reporters encompasses many specific people in the medical, educational, legal, law enforcement fields as well as other fields. Some states also make any adult working with a children’s club or organization (Cub Scouts, Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, Campfire, Y, etc.) a mandated reporter.
Mandated reporters are required to report when they suspect abuse or when they are told by a potential victim that abuse has/is occurred/occurring. That means that if a child comes to school and tells a teacher that his/her parents are abusing them, that teacher is required to make the report to the local agency for child protective services. They don’t have to have actual first hand knowledge of the abuse. They are required to make the call and let another professional make the decision as to whether it will be investigated or not. The identity of the reporters is supposed to be kept confidential. That doesn’t always happen. Most states have laws and penalties against anyone in a “mandated reporter category” NOT making a report.
I have been a mandated reporter in my teaching capacity as well as a Scout leader. I have made those calls to Child Protective Services several times. In one case it was investigated and found to be true. In the others, it was either not investigated at all or investigated and not found to be credible. And, although my identity was supposed to be kept confidential, it wasn’t. As a result, in two cases, parents came into my classroom and confronted me and verbally abused me in the presence of my students (this was in California which, incidentally, has a law on the books making it illegal for anyone to verbally or physically attack a school teacher or administrator in the presence of students) and no one backed me up. Administrators are supposed to do that yet in both cases, they failed to do so. It left a bitter taste in my mouth but I don’t regret having made those calls. I will do anything in my power to protect a child from any kind of abuse. Any day. Every day.