At some point in their career, most people who work in the mental health profession will come across a situation where they encounter a situation that possibly includes child abuse and neglect. Many questions arise in these circumstances such as: What constitutes child abuse or neglect? Who is mandated to report it? How do they report? What happens if they DO report or conversely what could happen if they don’t report the suspected abuse or neglect? Because this can be such a tricky situation, it is imperative to have a well-defined standard of practice for the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. It is important to take a moment to look at the history of child protection. Mandated reporting, and the ability for law enforcement or the Department of Health and Human Services to protect children is a relatively new concept. Available online is superb lecture presented by Renee Conrad (2010) detailing the history of child abuse and mandated reporting. Conrad noted it wasn’t until 1875 that the first organized child protective institute in the world was organized. What is even more astounding, Conrad explains is that The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) actually emerged eight years after the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Even though the NYSPCC had been founded in 1875, it wasn’t until 1962, and the definition of “The Battered Child Syndrome” by Dr. Henry C. Kempe that physicians were finally urged to report child abuse. Even with some professionals now reporting suspected child abuse, there were no legal ramifications to people who abused children. During the late 1960’s, many states finally made child abuse a criminal act, but still missed the boat on requiring professionals to report. A new page in the story of child protection was finally turned in 1974 when the United States Congress enacted the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (Conrad, 2010). This act promised federal funds to be used to prevent child abuse for all states that passed laws requiring certain professionals to report suspected child abuse and neglect. To get a piece of the financial pie, and possibly to live up to their moral and legal responsibility, all states quickly enacted mandated reporting laws in their legislatures
According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, “all states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have statues identifying persons who are required to report maltreatment under specific circumstances” (Mandated Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect, 2012, p.1). While circumstances which require a report to be made to the Department of Health and Human Services may vary from state to state, a report should be made “when the reporter, in his or her official capacity, suspects or has reasons to believe that a child has been abused or neglected” (Mandated Reporters, 2012, p.3). Another standard for reporting that is regularly followed is when “the reporter has knowledge of, or observes a child being subjected to, conditions that would reasonably result in harm to the child” (Mandated Reporters, 2012, p.1).
To answer specifically the regulations and requirements for mandating for the state of Maine, we can view the individual state statues of ch. 1071, §4011, §4012, §4013 and §4014 (1973). §4011-A, section 1 specifically tells us who must report, including a list of those acting in a professional capacity in 32 different areas, many of which are in the health or mental health and human service field. The statute also identifies two other types of mandated reporters: anyone assuming responsibility for the care or custody of a child and any person affiliated with a church or religious institution who serves in an administrative capacity or assumed a position of trust and responsibility. The latter two groups must report regardless of