Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect
March 22, 2012
Assistant Director, Sports and Youth & Family Programs
Southeast Missouri State University
Many people involved with the operation of camps and youth programs feel an obligation to protect and support the kids who become involved in their programs, but it is important to know that for most of us it is also a legal obligation.
“Approximately 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands designate professions whose members are mandated by law to report child maltreatment” as stated in the Child Welfare Information Gateway in 2010. If your camp falls into one of the above mentioned geographical areas the counselors are most likely required, by law, to report issues. The US Department of Health & Human Services points out that although laws vary from state to state, typically a report must be made when during the course of your job you suspect a child has been abused or neglected, or you observe or have knowledge of a situation in which conditions could result in harm to the child. Mandated reporters can be held legally responsible if they ignore this obligation.
Regardless of whether it is a requirement in your state, mandated reporter training programs are very helpful and provide counselors with a better understanding of how to deal with these difficult situations. Most communities have a local organization that will come to your camp’s training and provide a session for your staff. These sessions range from 2-4 hours typically and are filled with important information and tools for dealing with suspected abuse or neglect situations. Some states are now offering web-based training programs. If you need to find a training program in your area, a good place to start is your local department of social or family services.
Throughout my experiences directing summer day camps I have personally reported several suspected incidents and have had counselors go though the reporting process themselves. If it wasn’t for the mandated reporter training programs we went through each year I would not have been comfortable looking for the signs, understanding my responsibility to report, and knowing how to actually file a report. As a professional, these trainings were important, but even more so for the college-aged counselor staff we employ. It is important to know not only the legal requirements and how to file a report, but also what signs to look for in recognizing potential situations and what happens after a report is made. When we take on the legal responsibility to supervise children we often take on the role of mandated reporter and this role should not be taken lightly.