One of the main duties parents have is to protect their children from any harm or danger, such as abuse (physical, sexual, or emotional). This can also include neglect, which means not meeting a child’s basic needs, such as providing him or her with adequate food, housing, or medical care. Abuse can also include excessive corporal punishment or leaving a child alone at home, at a park, or in a vehicle. That is why certain people are required by law to immediately report any suspected abuse or neglect of a person under 18 years of age to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Even if you are not a parent or legal guardian of a child, you still may be responsible for a child’s welfare if you are a caregiver for that child.
What Is a Mandated Reporter?
While there are many Illinois laws regarding child protection and welfare, the most important one is the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (ANCRA). Under this law, a wide array of professionals and other individuals are required to report suspected abuse or neglect if they witness it or have knowledge of it. A mandated reporter is a person who, as a result of his or her profession, is legally obligated to report any suspicion of child abuse or neglect to the authorities. These laws are in place to prevent children from being abused and to stop any further abuse or neglect as soon as possible.
Who Can Be a Mandated Reporter?
Generally, mandated reporters are professionals who may work with children in the course of their professional duties. This may include individuals who work in the following fields:
The medical profession – Administrators, physicians, nurses, certified nursing assistants, medical technicians, home health aides, psychologists, psychiatrists, dentists, dental hygienists, and acupuncturists
Schools – Staff at nursery schools, daycare centers, or school personnel, such as administrators, teachers, aides, coaches, and other staff of a recreational or athletic program, as well as school board members
Social services – Therapists, counselors, and social workers, including people who are pastors, ministers, rabbis, priests, and other members of the clergy
Moreover, those who are on a Board of Elders, Board of Deacons, or teach Sunday school or other religious education classes at churches, parishes, temples, and synagogues may also be considered mandated reporters. The protection of children is the responsibility of the entire community. Therefore, the law mandates that anyone who suspects a child is being abused and/or neglected must report it.
These mandated reporters often have the interaction and/or trust of children and thus, are in the best position to identify signs of harm to a child and take the necessary steps to help protect them. Mandated reporters are required to immediately report suspected child abuse when they have reasonable cause to believe that a child known to them may be an abused or neglected child or is in danger of violence or neglect.
A mandated reporter cannot be forbidden from immediately making a report by his or her boss, supervisor, or any other person at his or her place of employment. It is neither the job nor the responsibility of the mandated reporter to first investigate the suspicion or an allegation of abuse and/or neglect. Instead, he or she must make a report to DCFS, whose child protection specialists are trained to conduct these types of investigations. The identity of the mandated reporter is confidential and protected except under special circumstances determined by the court.
Penalties for Not Reporting Abuse
A mandated reporter who knowingly and willfully fails to report any suspected child abuse or neglect may be criminally charged with a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois. However, if it is a second or subsequent failure to report an allegation, it may be charged as a Class 4 felony. Privileged communication between a professional and a client may not be grounds for failure to report. Moreover, professionals may also be subject to penalties by their regulatory licensing boards for failure to report suspected child abuse and/or neglect to DCFS.
There are many variables in determining whether a child has been abused or neglected, including how to distinguish neglect from poverty; how to distinguish a messy or dirty home from a dangerous environment; and how old a child needs to be before he or she can stay at home alone. In addition, what is “excessive” corporal discipline; how to distinguish an abrasion, bruise, cut, or broken bone caused by domestic violence from an accidental injury; and what is the appropriate level of supervision of a child versus blatant disregard for a child’s safety or well-being.
Contact a Wheaton Child Endangerment Lawyer
If you or someone you know has concerns regarding possible child abuse or neglect allegations, it is important to seek professional legal counsel. If you are an employer and you are not certain your employees know their legal duties and responsibilities in regards to being a mandated reporter, contact an experienced attorney at Anderson Attorneys & Advisors. We can conduct a comprehensive seminar for your employees and answer any questions you may have. In addition, our knowledgeable DuPage County child abuse and neglect defense attorneys know how to protect your rights. Call us today at 630-877-5800 to schedule your free consultation.