The Role of Professional Background, Case Characteristics, and Protective Agency Response in Mandated Child Abuse Reporting

by Gail L. Zellman, Robert M. Bell

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By 1967, all states had passed child abuse reporting laws. This report presents data about reporting behavior drawn from a mail survey of mandated reporters and data on child protective agency responses collected in selected child protective agencies. The analyses reveal that almost 40 percent of respondents decided to violate the law and not report suspected maltreatment at some point in their careers. Nevertheless, consistent reporting was the most common behavioral pattern. A third of the respondents used discretion, alerting authorities only some of the time. Among those who sometimes failed to report, almost 60 percent withheld a report for lack of sufficient evidence. More training, special access for professionals to make reporting easier, and reconsideration of the laws' proscriptions against professional discretion may improve a reporting process made increasingly difficult by chronic shortages of protective agency resources.

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