Legal and policy issues from the United States and internationally about mandatory reporting of child abuse.


Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Institute for Legal Studies in Criminal Justice, 816 17th Street, P.O. Box 2296, College of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX 77341-2296, USA. Electronic address: [Email]


Laws that mandate reporting of child abuse have stirred global controversy. Mandatory reporting to authorities for different types of child abuse includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, educational neglect, and emotional neglect. While the definition of child abuse differs from jurisdiction-to-jurisdiction, which covers a wide spectrum of abuse and maltreatment, employees who work in professions required to report child abuse include health care workers, educational employees, social workers, religious leaders, employees of divisions of child protective services, criminal justice and other governmental personnel, and child care professionals. Lack of a uniform definition of what constitutes child abuse causes problems for mandatory reporters, ranging from false arrest and malicious prosecution to failure to investigate ongoing child abuse. This article reviews international norms associated with mandatory reporting of child abuse and assesses court cases within the United States that involve mandatory reporting, identifying important issues and underlying problems with the current mandatory reporting system; it concludes with policy recommendations and suggestions for future research.