April is Child Abuse Prevention Month and one of the preventative measures the State of Kansas has taken is to legally require the reporting of suspected abuse by certain professionals who are most likely to encounter children and can identify the signs of abuse. These professionals are often referred to as "mandated reporters." If you have ever wondered what that really means, here are some basics of who Kansas law considers a mandated reporter and what the law requires.
What is a Mandated Reporter?
Mandated reporters are people who are required, by law, to report suspected child abuse or neglect. This includes certain professionals, including:
· Medical professionals (physicians, dentists, optometrists, nurses, etc), persons engaged in postgraduate medical training and certain administrative officials of medical facilities;
· Mental health providers (psychologists, psychotherapists, social workers, marriage and family therapists, counselors and behavioral analysts);
· Teachers, administrators and employees of educational institutions and child care providers;
· Law Enforcement and First Responders (firefighters, emergency medical service personnel, law enforcement, juvenile intake workers, court services officers, etc.);
· Anyone employed or volunteering for any organization that provides social services to pregnant teenagers.
What has to be reported?
Any time a mandated reporter has “reason to suspect” that a child has been abused or neglected, it must be reported. Child abuse can be physical injury, sexual abuse or emotional abuse. Neglect is an act or omission by a parent or person responsible for a child that results in harm to the child, and can include physical neglect, medical neglect or a lack of supervision. A “reason to suspect” may occur when there are physical or behavioral clues of abuse or neglect, or where there are inconsistent or discrepant explanations for how a child was injured. Importantly, a mandated reporter does not have to have actual evidence of abuse or neglect to make the report.
A report of suspected abuse or neglect should include the name and address of the child and the child’s parents or guardians; the location of the child if not at the child’s residence; the gender, race and age of the child; the reasons why the reporter believes the child may be a child in need of care; if abuse, neglect or sexual abuse is suspected; the nature and extent of the harm to the child, including any evidence of previous harm; and any other information the reporter believes may be helpful in investigating the report.
To whom is a report made?
Generally reports are made to the Kansas Protection Report Center, sometimes also called the DCF Hotline. However, reports can also be made to local law enforcement, particularly when there is concern for immediate harm to the child.
What happens if a mandated reporter fails to make a report?
Failure of a mandated reporter to report suspected abuse or neglect is a criminal offense punishable by up to six (6) months in jail. Kansas law specifically provides that it is not a defense that another mandatory reporter has already made a report – each mandated reporter must make a report if they suspect abuse or neglect.
Sometimes, employers have separate policies regarding reporting abuse, which may include requirements such as notifying a supervisor first. Those requirements are separate and distinct from the statutory requirement to report and do not relieve a mandated reporter from their obligation under the law.
Can I get in trouble for making a report?
Kansas law specifically protects from immunity anyone who, in good faith, makes a report to DCF or law enforcement, participates in an investigation relating to a report, or participates in any judicial action resulting from a report. In other words, a parent cannot sue you for making a report in good faith.
Reports which are made maliciously, or which are knowingly false, are not protected from civil liability and may also result in criminal prosecution.
Danielle N. Davey is an attorney licensed to practice in state and federal courts in Kansas. She has served as a Guardian ad Litem in Child in Need of Care cases, as well as a parent's attorney. If you have questions about suspected child abuse, requirements to report abuse in Kansas, or a pending Child in Need of Care matter, call Danielle at 785-357-6311.
The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.