Reporting Child Abuse - Mandatory Reporting
communications privileged professionals maltreatment
In 1974 Congress enacted the first Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA; Public Law 93-247) that set guidelines for the reporting, investigation, and treatment of child maltreatment. States had to meet these requirements in order to receive federal funding to assist child victims of abuse and neglect. Among its many provisions, CAPTA required the states to enact mandatory reporting laws and procedures so that child protective services (CPS) agencies can take action to protect children from further abuse. (The term "CPS" refers to the services provided by an agency authorized to act on behalf of a child when his or her parents are unable or unwilling to do so. CPS is also often used to refer to the agency itself.)
The earliest mandatory reporting laws were directed at medical professionals, particularly physicians, who were considered the most likely to see abused children. Currently each state designates mandatory reporters, including health care workers, mental health professionals, social workers, school personnel, child care providers, and law enforcement officers. Any individual, however, whether or not he or she is a mandatory reporter, may report incidents of abuse or neglect.
Some states also require maltreatment reporting from other individuals, such as firefighters, Christian Science practitioners, battered women's counselors, animal control officers, veterinarians, commercial/private film or photograph processors, and even lawyers. As of June 2003, eighteen states and Puerto Rico required all citizens to report suspected child maltreatment. (See Table 3.1.)
Some state statutes include provisions pertaining to the right of confidentiality of communications between professionals and their clients. As of June 2003, twenty-one states, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands exempted from mandatory reporting the privileged communications between attorneys and clients. Twenty-five states exempted from mandatory reporting the privileged communications between clergy and penitents. Ohio and Wyoming recognize privileged communications between physicians and patients, while Oregon exempts from mandatory reporting privileged communications between mental heath professionals and patients. (See Table 3.1.)