State Legislatures Deal with Child Abuse Reporting

Legislatures in 46 states and 6 territories are meeting in 2012 and while high on every state’s agenda is the Affordable Care Act (ACA), state legislatures are dealing with a variety of child welfare issues – including privatization, mandatory child abuse reporting, workforce development,  and child deaths. The child welfare topic that is getting the most attention is mandatory child abuse reporting. Currently, there are 63 bills in 25 states that have been introduced during the 2012 legislative session. The bills introduced throughout the state legislatures are strongly reacting to lack of reporting of sexual abuse by a football coach at Pennsylvania State University. Many of the bills speak directly to including mandatory reporters who are employees and staff members of higher education programs, specifically coaches, athletic directors, graduate assistants, college administrators, and college presidents. 

While many states already have tight mandatory requirements and penalties in place, other states are looking to make legislative changes that will improve current laws.  Some of the proposed legislation follows:

  • Any person witnessing child abuse and neglect must report  (GA, HI, MO, NJ, PA, SC, VA, WA)
  • Expansion of mandatory reporters to include school personnel (not just teachers), staff and employees of any social service organization, basically any professional  (CA, FL, IL, MD, MO, MS, NH, NY, PA, SC, SD, VA, WA, WV)
  • Specifies criminal penalties for failure to report child abuse and child sexual abuse (KS, LA, MD, NH, NJ, NY, PA, VA, WV)

Other proposed changes to the state mandatory reporting requirements include prohibition of retaliation for reporting of child abuse, increased training by state Departments of Education on recognizing and responding to abuse complaints, required increased collaboration between the child welfare agency and law enforcement, and reduction in the amount of time that a witness of child abuse has to report to the state agency responsible for investigating child abuse.