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Mandated reporters, in contrast to permissive reporters, are required by Pennsylvania law to report any suspected child abuse and often work in fields where they come into contact with and work with children. Mandated reporters are an essential component to how Pennsylvania works to prevent, investigate, and treat child abuse and abuse by school employees . Most times, mandated reporters are often the only link that is between a child and that child’s safety from abuse. Thus, it is very important that individuals who are mandated reporters are not only able to understand how to recognize child abuse, but also know how to make reports of suspected child abuse in a timely, complete, and accurate manner .
Since mandated reporters are required by law to report suspected child abuse, they also have responsibilities if they have any suspicions or reasonable cause that a child may be a victim of child abuse under any of the following circumstances :
• The mandated reporter comes into contact with the child in the course of employment, occupation, and practice of a profession or through a regularly scheduled program, activity, or services.
It is important to note that none of the above requires that a child has to come before the mandated reporter in order for the mandated reporter to make a report of suspected child abuse. Also, none of the above states that the mandated reporter is required to identify the person who is responsible for the child abuse in order to make a report of suspected child abuse .
The Pennsylvania law specifies categories of individuals who may come into contact with children on a frequent and consistent basis due to the nature of their work who are legally required to make a report of suspected child abuse if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that the child is a victim of child abuse. Those categories of adults who are classified as mandated reporters in the state of Pennsylvania include :
• Persons licensed or certifies to practice in any health-related field
An important note to remember is that a ‘school employee’ is an individual who is employed by a school or who provides an activity or service sponsored by a school. This term does not apply to administrative personnel unless an individual has direct contact with children. A school is a facility providing elementary, secondary, or postsecondary educational services, including public and nonpublic schools, vocational-technical schools, and institutions of higher education .
There are certain actions that are required of mandated reporters as in comparison to permissive reporters. Some of these actions must be taken by mandated reporters in good faith :
• Make a report
Mandated reporters may also:
• Take photographs of the child’s injuries
If the mandated reporter does take any photographs, X-rays, and/or medical summaries, these should be sent to the county agency along with the report of suspected child abuse, or as soon as possible afterward. The mandated reported must also give the county access to the actual photographs and X-rays .
As with permissive reporters, mandated reporters do not need to try to determine whether child abuse has actually taken place. Mandated reporters are not child abuse investigators, so they should not ask any questions about what happened, who did it, and so on after coming to the conclusion that there is a reasonable cause to suspect that the child has been a victim of child abuse .
After a mandated reporter makes a report of suspected child abuse, they are required to immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility, or agency or the designated agent of the person who is in charge.
3. b. i. ATTORNEYS AS MANDATED REPORTERS
As stated above, attorneys who are affiliated with an agency, institution, organization, or other entity, including a school or regularly established religious organization that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance, or control of children are required to report suspected child abuse. In other words, attorneys who frequently and consistently come into contact with children through their work are mandated reporters under Pennsylvania law and must make a report of child abuse if they have a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is the victim of child abuse.
However, Section 6311.1 of the Pennsylvania Code states that the privileged communications between a mandated reporter and a client of the mandated reporter do not apply to a situation that involves child abuse and does not relieve the mandated reporter of their duty and responsibility to make a report of suspected child abuse. This section of the Pennsylvania Code does offer protections for confidential communications between an attorney and their clients. Confidential communications made to a member of the clergy are protected under 42 Pa.C.S. § 5943 (relating to confidential communications to clergymen). These confidential communications are protected so long as they fall within the scope of title 42 Pa.C.S. §§ 5916 (relating to confidential communications to an attorney) and 5928 (relating to confidential communications to an attorney), the attorney work product doctrine, or the rules of professional conduct for attorneys .
3. b. ii. PRIVILEGED AND CONFIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS
A potential problem that mandated reporters may face when having to file a report for suspected child abuse, especially those individuals who work in a health-related field, is worrying about the possibility of violating the patient’s rights, including their confidentiality rights that are established by Pennsylvania state law or those rights that are set in the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA.
One of the primary goals of HIPPA is to protect the confidentiality and security information of individuals, state and federal laws explicitly exclude mandatory child abuse reporting from these confidentiality rights. In other words, the Child Protective Services Law overrides both the state and federal privileges for privacy and confidentiality with medical professionals with very limited exceptions to these reporting requirements, specifically applying to only certain privileged communications with clergy and attorneys as stated in previous sections.
A mandated reporter who is acting in good faith and has a reasonable belief that a child is the victim of child abuse, can make a report of suspected child abuse without having to worry about violating any confidentiality rights of HIPPA by disclosing particular personal health information .
31. "Who Are Mandated Reporters?" Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
32. "505-When does the privacy rule allow covered entities to disclose information to law enforcement." U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. HHS.gov, 18 Dec. 2015. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
33. "For Mandated Reporters." Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
34. Family, Pennsylvania. "What Are A Mandated Reporters Responsibilities?" Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.