Mandated Reporters: An Insider’s Perspective
Mandated reporting is one of the most difficult aspects of working in the healthcare profession or any profession that involves working with children, the elderly or the disabled. Mandated reporting refers to the requirement of certain professionals to report suspected abuse or neglect. Professionals who do not report abused may be subject to civil and/or criminal charges. In some cases, failure to report can also result in termination. Reports of abuse and neglect are reported to either child protective services (CPS) or adult protective services (APS). These agencies are typically located at the local department of social services/department of human services. There is usually a hotline where callers can make anonymous reports.
Child Protective Services
Child Protective services (CPS) respond to abuse and neglect allegations involving children. Reports to CPS often involve physical and sexual abuse from parents or caregivers. Reports are also made based on observation of poor living conditions, suspected drug abused from parents, and any other behavior that may be neglectful and could put the health and safety of children in jeopardy.
Adult Protective Services
Adult productive services (APS) respond to reports of abuse and neglect involving adults (age 18 and older). Reports to APS typically involve the elderly and disabled. Reports to APS often involve physical abuse and neglect from caregivers or family. Adults are also vulnerable to financial exploitation. However, this is often difficult to prove due to a lack of cooperation from the victim or insufficient evidence. Reports to APS may also be made due to self neglect. This often includes the elderly that are no longer able to care for themselves.
Depending on the state, a CPS or APS investigation can take 30 to 45 days to complete. After the call is made to the hotline, the information is taken to supervisors or managers to determine if the case will be investigated. If the compliant is determined to be a legitimate concern for abuse and neglect, the case is accepted and assigned to a case worker.
The investigation consists of several interviews with witnesses including the alleged victims. Visits are also conducted at the home and/or the place where the alleged abuse occurred. The police may also be contacted if there is reason to believe that criminal charges need to be filed. The police may also work along with social services in cases where children are removed from the home and there is a chance that there may be a confrontation.
If the case is found to be abuse or neglect, the next phase is to develop a plan of action to prevent the abuse from happening again. In CPS cases, a safety plan is developed for caregivers and/or parents for children that remain in the home. However, some situations require children to be removed from the home. In this case, emergency foster care families are available to place children who do not have other family members willing or able to provide care.
In APS cases, the plan of action is basically the same. However, adults who live in licensed facilities often face additional intervention. State regulatory agencies may also require the facility to complete a corrective action plan. A corrective action plan addresses areas that are in violation of state regulations. The representative from licensure will allow a certain period of time to correct the problems and then conduct a follow up visit. The case will be closed if the problems have been determined to have been adequately addressed. However, if the problems are not resolved, the facility may be subject to placement on a conditional license or even lose their license in some cases.
Typical Mandated Reporters
Direct Care Providers
Difficulties with Anonymous Reporting
Reports can be made anonymously. However, there are some cases when reports cannot be made anonymously. A teacher that observes bruises on a child is obligated to report this and there is no mystery as to who made the call. A case manager that makes a home visit to a group home and finds their client living in poor housing conditions are also obligated to report this to adult protective services. In some cases, state licensing boards are also contacted for concerns regarding people who live in group homes, sponsored residential homes, and other adult living facilities.
Making a report to CPS or APS can be difficult for some professionals due to their relationship with the alleged victim and perpetrator of abuse. In many cases, the accused is often a caregiver, parent, or staff responsible for providing care and ensuring their safety. Case managers or clinicians that work closely with the family may find it difficult to continue having a professional relationship after making a report. In-home service providers who work with families every day and have developed a rapport often have the most difficult time reporting suspected abuse.
Another challenge is that reports to CPS/APS require only suspicion of abuse and not actual proof. Therefore, there will inevitably be some cases that are reported and found not to be abuse. This can really fracture the relationship between the human services professional and the family. In some cases a clinician/case manager will be taken off of a case after a CPS/APS complaint has been made against a family.
Media coverage also presents a major challenge to any case that involves abuse or neglect. It is extremely important that every action is documented and that the investigation was conducted according to the state and local regulations. In these cases it is also important to be careful about emails and other correspondence. This information may be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the media.
Mandated reporting is a difficult but necessary in order to ensure the health and safety of our most vulnerable populations. Professionals who are mandated reporters should always consult a supervisor before making a report to CPS or APS to determine if it is the proper action to take. It is also a good idea to make it clear to families during the intake process that you are a mandated reporter and by law have to report any suspected abuse. Of course, when in doubt, report it.
Have you ever made a report to CPS or APS?
Should everyone regardless of your occupation be mandated to report abuse?
© 2014 Martin D Gardner