In our last post, we began looking at the California Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act and its requirements. As we noted, there are various forms of abuse and neglect which must be reported under the act by certain categories of individuals identified as legally mandated reporters.
Such individuals are required to report when, in their professional capacity of in the course of employment, they acquire knowledge of or observe a child whom they know or reasonably suspect has been the victim of child abuse or neglect. The extent of a mandatory reporter’s actual knowledge isn’t always possible or easy to determine, but reasonable suspicion may be found whenever the facts available to the mandatory reporter make suspicion of child abuse or neglect objectively reasonable given the mandatory reporter’s training and experience.
In practice, it isn’t always easy to recognize the signs of abuse, but reasonable suspicion is a fairly forgiving standard. Mandatory reporters should not be overly scrupulous about reporting suspected abuse or neglect, particularly because they are protected by safeguards, including immunity from criminal or civil liability for reporting as required, even when knowledge or reasonable suspicion develops outside the context of their professional work or the scope of their employment. In addition, the identity of a reporting party and the contents of the report are confidential and may only be disclosed to certain individuals and agencies.
Failure to report knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect is no small matter, and can result in criminal penalties. Civil damages may also be awarded if the victim or another child is further victimized because of the failure to report. When this occurs, it is important for the victim to have strong advocacy to ensure that the mandatory reporter is held accountable under the law and that the victim is fully compensated.