Child Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect: Identification and Reporting
New York State Mandatory Training

Reporting Child Abuse and Maltreatment

Who Are the Mandated Reporters?

Abuse and Maltreatment/Neglect Have Many Presentations

The Disturbing Statistics

Legal Definitions Related to Child Maltreatment

Recognizing Child Abuse

Case Studies: Identifying Abuse

Risk Factors Contributing to Child Abuse and Maltreatment

Protective Factors for Child Abuse and Maltreatment

The Consequences of Child Abuse

Perpetrators of Child Abuse

Talking with Children

Reasonable Cause/When to Report

How to Report

What Happens After a Report is Made

The Abandoned Infant Protection Act




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Ken Hammond, USDA

As previously stated, mandated reporters fail to report child abuse and maltreatment because they feel they cannot identify abuse correctly and they feel they do not know the correct procedure for reporting. Additionally, people sometimes fear that reporting child abuse or maltreatment will destroy a family. The truth, however, is that reporting should lead to getting help for the family by protecting the child from further suffering and harm and by assisting the family in facing and overcoming its problems. Professionals can all help end child abuse by their efforts to become more aware of the signs of child abuse and maltreatment and reporting suspected cases (PCA-NY, n.d.; NYCACS, 2010; NYS-OCFS, 2009).

As mentioned previously, more than one-half (57.9%) of all reports made to Child Protective Services agencies nationally came from professionals who came in contact with the child as part of their professional responsibilities. In 2008, the three most common sources of reports were from professionals-teachers (16.9%), lawyers or police officers (16.3%), and social services staff (10.6%) (USDHHS-ACF, 2010). In New York State, many of these professions are required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect.

Non-professionals submitted approximately 42% of reports. These reports were made by parents, relatives, friends and neighbors, alleged victims, alleged perpetrators, anonymous callers, and "other" sources (which may include clergy members, sports coaches, camp counselors, bystanders, volunteers, and foster siblings). It is important for everyone to know the signs that may indicate maltreatment and how to report it. We all share a responsibility to help keep children safe as we take steps to prevent abuse from occurring in the first place.

Professionals Mandated to Report

New York State has identified select professionals, who bring specific skills to the process, to be in the very important role of mandated reporter of child abuse or maltreatment. The complete current list can be found in Section 413 of the New York Social Services Law. These mandated professionals are:

  • Alcoholism counselor
  • Child care or foster care workers
  • Chiropractor
  • Christian Science practitioner
  • Coroner
  • Day care center worker
  • Dentist
  • Dental hygienist
  • District attorney or assistant district attorney
  • Emergency medical technician
  • Employee or volunteer in a residential care facility for children
  • Hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of persons
  • Intern
  • Investigator employed in the Office of the District Attorney
  • Law enforcement officials
  • Licensed creative arts therapist
  • Licensed marriage and family therapist
  • Licensed mental health counselor
  • Licensed psychoanalyst
  • Medical examiner
  • Mental health professional
  • Optometrist
  • Osteopath
  • Peace officer
  • Physician
  • Podiatrist
  • Provider of family or group family day care
  • Police officer
  • Psychologist
  • Registered nurse
  • Registered physician assistant
  • Resident
  • School official (As of July 3, 2007, this includes, but is not limited to: school teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, school nurses, school administrators, or other school personnel required to hold a teaching or other administrative license or certification.)
  • Social services worker
  • Social Worker
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Surgeon

The Role of the Mandated Reporter

By identifying certain professionals as mandated reporters of child abuse and maltreatment, the State of New York is attempting to ensure that this select group of individuals will do so as part of their professional responsibilities. The role of the mandated reporter is to: report suspected incidents of child abuse or maltreatment/neglect while acting in their professional capacity.

When a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child whom the reporter sees in his/her professional or official capacity is abused or maltreated, the professional must report the abuse, maltreatment or neglect.

Additionally, a mandated reporter must report when s/he has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or maltreated where the parent or person legally responsible for the child comes before them in his/her professional or official capacity and states from personal knowledge facts, conditions, or circumstances which, if correct, would render the child abused or maltreated.

Reflecting changes to the child abuse reporting laws, which came into effect on July 3, 2007, whenever a mandated reporter suspects child abuse or maltreatment while acting in her/his professional capacity as a staff member of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency, he or she must report the child abuse personally, as required by law and then immediately notify the person in charge of that school, facility institution or her/his designated agent that a report was made. The mandated reporter must include, to the best of the reporter's ability, the names, titles and contact information for each staff person in the institution who has direct knowledge of the allegations in the report. The law does not require more than one report from the institution, school, facility or agency on any one incident of suspected abuse or maltreatment. The person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency, or the designated agent, is then responsible for all subsequent administrative actions in support of the report.

The 2007 changes made by the New York State Legislature clarified that reporting internally to the person in charge does not discharge the mandated reporter's obligation to report to the State Central Register. Additionally, the revised law states that any person in charge of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency may not prevent the staff member, who is a mandated reporter, from making a report. The revised law specifically states that no retaliatory personnel actions can be taken against mandated reporters by the institution. Additionally, 2007 revision to the law stated that no school, school official, child care provider, foster care provider, residential care facility provider, hospital, medical institution provider, or mental health facility provider may impose additional conditions about reporting, such as prior approval or prior notification, upon any staff members who are mandated reporters of child abuse and maltreatment.

Also in 2007, Chapter 513 of the Laws of 2007, also known as Xctasy's Law amended Section 413 of the Social Services Law. Mandated reporters' responsibility to report applies when a child, parent, guardian, custodian other person legally responsible for the child, or any other person appearing before the social services worker comes before the mandated reporter in his or her professional or official capacity and states facts, conditions or circumstances based on personal knowledge sufficient to give the social services worker a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment. This change only affects social services workers; the reporting standard did not change for other mandated reporters.

Social services workers are identified by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) as the following:

  • Professional and paraprofessional staff of local social services districts. This would include child welfare staff, all professional and paraprofessional local district staff, regardless of their function or area of responsibility, who provide services to children and/or families. For example, public assistance staff, adult protective services workers and Medicaid staff would be included.
  • Professional and paraprofessional staff that provide services to children and/or families, who work for organizations or entities that have contracts-as well as individuals who have contracts or subcontracts- with local social services districts, as well as providing services related to foster care, adoption, or preventive services.
  • OCFS regional office staff that have responsibilities for inspections or investigation of complaints at residential facilities and day care programs, other than those staff whose sole responsibility is to inspect facilities and investigate complaints related to physical plant or building safety issues.

Reasonable Cause to Suspect: Certainty is not required

Do you as a mandated reporter have to be certain that abuse, maltreatment or neglect has actually occurred? Do you need to have proof before you report your suspicions?

In New York State, a mandated reporter can have "reasonable cause" to suspect that a child is abused or maltreated, if, considering what physical evidence s/he observes or is told about, and from his/her own training and experience, it is possible that the injury or condition was caused by non-accidental means. The mandated reporter need not be absolutely certain that the injury or condition was caused by neglect or by non-accidental means; the reporter should only be able to entertain the possibility that it could have been neglect or non-accidental in order to possess the necessary "reasonable cause".

The mandated reporter does not have to prove the abuse or maltreatment. It is enough for the mandated reporter to be suspicious, to distrust or doubt what s/he personally observes or is told. Many factors can and should be considered in the formation of that doubt or distrust in potential abuse cases: Physical and behavioral indicators are helpful in forming a reasonable basis of suspicion. Although these indicators are not diagnostic criteria of child abuse, neglect or maltreatment, they illustrate important patterns that may be recorded in the written report when relevant.

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