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| 3 MIN READ | 3 years ago

Do Varying Abuse Requirements Leave Vulnerable People Unprotected?

by National Association of Mandated Reporters
A sad young boy hugs his grandpa. Find out why varying abuse reporting requirements could be leaving children, the elderly, and more at risk for abuse.

In the United States, mandated reporting laws and funding can vary from state to state. Some states receive funding in the millions and have extremely stringent requirements for who needs to report, while other states receive far less funding or have few legislative requirements for reporters.

Does this variation in mandated reporting requirements leave the most vulnerable of our population at risk?

States Receive Varying Amounts of Federal Funds to Aid in Abuse Prevention

Federal grants account for about one-third of total state government funding, and more than half of state government funding for health care and public assistance.

Federal grants for preventing and treating abuse generally fall under the “formula categorical grant” category, meaning they are allocated among recipients according to factors specified within the enabling legislation. 

Federal legislation such as the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and Elder Justice Act (EJA) authorizes grants for state and local governments for reporting, investigation, training, monitoring of casework, provision of social services, and other activities related to the abuse of children and the elderly.

CAPTA funds are allocated proportionately among states based on the number of children under age 18 residing in each state, while EJA funds are allocated proportionately based on the number of elders (age 60+) in each state.

Because these federal grant funds are distributed on a formula basis, funding can vary greatly from state to state.

CAPTA grants, for example, can range from a low of $227,331 for the District of Columbia to a high of more than $9.5 million for California.

This is a huge disparity in grant funding that goes towards the training, reporting, prevention, and other activities related to abuse.

State Requirements for Mandated Reporters Vary

Who are mandated reporters, exactly? Each state may have a different answer to that question, depending on the profession of the reporter and what type of abuse is in question.

In California, for example, mandated reporters of child abuse include a long list of professionals, including medical professionals, school personnel and educators, social workers, childcare workers, HR employees and supervisors of companies that hire teen workers, law enforcement, athletic coaches, clergy, commercial film processors, and more. 

In Alabama, mandated reporters are professionals who work in medical, education, and law enforcement.

Within the same state, mandated reporters can vary based on what type of abuse is in question. While California has one of the longest lists of professionals designated as reporters of child abuse, the list of mandated reporters of elder abuse or dependent adult abuse is significantly shorter. Yet in the same state, when it comes to reporting intimate partner violence, only medical professionals have a legal requirement to report to law enforcement injuries from assault or firearms.

The Problem of “Any Person”

In states like Delaware and Indiana, on the other hand, “any person, agency, organization or entity who knows or in good faith suspects child abuse or neglect shall make a report” to avoid any kind of civil or criminal liability.

While the intention of the “any person” requirement is good (we all should have an obligation to protect vulnerable persons from abuse), it does leave a logistical issue when it comes to training and preparing people to properly identify and report abuse.

When mandated reporting requirements are tied to a specific profession, training people to be mandated reporters is relatively easy.

The State of California has some of the most aggressive mandated reporter requirements in the U.S. as well as one of the most sophisticated training-and-tracking systems to ensure everyone who is required to be a mandated reporter has access to profession-specific training.

California’s AB1207 requires a person who becomes an administrator or employee of a licensed child daycare facility to complete mandated reporter training within their first 90 days of employment and renew mandated reporter training every 2 years. 

California's training program was created in partnership with the CA Department of Social Services (CDSS) and includes a general training program plus profession-specific training courses. Certificates of completion are issued digitally upon completion of courses and tracked online by system administrators, making it easy for administrators to keep track of who has completed the required training and who has not.

When you remove the profession-specific requirements, it can be much harder to ensure that mandated reporters are receiving the training they need to properly identify and report suspected cases of abuse.

NAMR Supports a Standardized Solution

The National Association of Mandated Reporters believes that national standards can help fill the gaps left behind when states receive varying amounts of funding and have varying requirements for preventing abuse of vulnerable people.

Federal grant conditions are often used to promote national goals. Consider the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which allows states to define the standards used for testing while imposing federal testing, teaching, and accountability standards on states and school districts

We believe that federal standards for mandated reporter training and reporting, as well as a nationally standardized certificate program, can be an effective solution to ensure that all vulnerable persons are protected from abuse, no matter what state they live in or what demographic they belong to.

If you are a mandated reporter or simply want to protect vulnerable people from abuse, join the National Association of Mandated Reporters (NAMR) today.

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