ATrain Education

 

Continuing Education for Health Professionals

IA: Child Abuse, A Guide for Mandatory Reporters

Module 3

How Do I Report Child Abuse in Iowa?

Call 800 362 2178. According to Iowa Code section 232.70, if you are a mandatory reporter of child abuse and you suspect a child has been abused, you need to report it to the Department of Human Services. The law requires you to report suspected child abuse to DHS orally within 24 hours of becoming aware of the situation. You must also make a report in writing within 48 hours after your oral report.

The employer or supervisor of a person who is a mandatory or permissive reporter shall not apply a policy, work rule, or other requirement that interferes with the person making a report of child abuse. As a mandatory reporter, you are also required to make an oral report to law enforcement if you have reason to believe that immediate protection of the child is necessary.

The law requires the reporting of suspected child abuse. It is not the reporter’s role to validate the abuse. The law does not require you to have proof that the abuse occurred before reporting. The law clearly specifies that reports of child abuse must be made when the person reporting “reasonably believes a child has suffered abuse.”

 

Did You Know. . .

Reports are made in terms of the child’s possible condition, not in terms of an accusation against parents.

 

A report of child abuse is not an accusation, but a request to determine whether child abuse exists and begin the helping process.

Making a report of child abuse may be difficult. You may have doubts about whether the circumstances merit a report, how the parents will react, what the outcome will be, and whether the report will put the child at greater risk. The best way to minimize the difficulty of reporting is to:

  • Be knowledgeable about the reporting requirements, and
  • Be aware of the department’s intake criteria and the response that is initiated by making a report.

Within 24 hours of receiving your report, DHS will notify you orally as to whether the report has been accepted or rejected. Within five working days, you will also be sent form 470-3789, Notice of Intake Decision, indicating whether the report of child abuse was accepted or rejected.

Reporting Procedures

If you see a child in imminent danger, immediately contact law enforcement (911) to provide immediate assistance to the child. Law enforcement is the only profession that can take a child into custody in that situation. After you have notified law enforcement, then call DHS. To report a suspected case of child abuse:

  • Call 800 362 2178.
  • Then, follow up by making a written report within 24 hours.

Oral and written reports should contain the following information, if it is known:

  • The names and home address of the child and the child’s parents or other persons believed to be responsible for the child’s care.
  • The child’s present whereabouts.
  • The child’s age.
  • The nature and extent of the child’s injuries, including any evidence of previous injuries.
  • The name, age, and condition of other children in the same household.
  • Any other information that you believe may be helpful in establishing the cause of the abuse or neglect to the child.
  • The identity of the person or persons responsible for the abuse or neglect to the child.
  • Your name and address.

Form 470-0665, Report of Suspected Child Abuse, can be found in the DHS Guide for Mandatory Reporters, available online through the DHS website.

If you suspect sexual abuse of a child under the age of 12 by a non-caretaker, you are required by law to make a report of child abuse to DHS. If the child is age 12 or older, you may report the sexual abuse by a non-caretaker but you are not required by law to do so. DHS must report all sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement within 72 hours.

Waiver of Confidentiality

The issues of confidentiality and privileged communication are often areas of concern for mental health and health service professionals.

 

Did You Know. . .

Rules around confidentiality and privileged communication are waived during the child abuse assessment process once a report of child abuse becomes a case.

 

Iowa Code section 232.71B indicates that the Department may request information from any person believed to have knowledge of a child abuse case. County attorneys, law enforcement officers, social services agencies, and all mandatory reporters (whether or not they made the report of suspected abuse) are obligated to cooperate and assist with the child abuse assessment upon the request of the Department.

Confidentiality is waived in Iowa Code section 232.74, which reads:

Sections 622.9 and 622.10 and any other statute or rule of evidence which excludes or makes privileged the testimony of a husband or wife against the other or the testimony of a health practitioner or mental health professional as to confidential communications, do not apply to evidence regarding a child’s injuries or the cause of the injuries in any judicial proceeding, civil or criminal, resulting from a report pursuant to this chapter or relating to the subject matter of such a report.

Physician privilege is waived in cases of suspected child abuse. Physicians are allowed to share whatever information is necessary with the Department of Human Services to facilitate a thorough assessment.

It is wise to let your clients know your status as a child abuse reporter at the onset of treatment. This will help establish an open relationship and minimize the client’s feelings of betrayal if a report needs to be made. Making a child abuse referral does not necessarily mean that your relationship with the child and family will end, especially when you are able to support the family during the assessment process.

When possible, discuss the need to make a child abuse report with the family. However, be aware that there are certain situations where, if the family is warned about the assessment process, the child may be at risk for further abuse or the family may leave with the child.

In situations where you are not required to make a child abuse report, ethically you need to address these concerns in a therapeutic setting. Refer to your Professional Code of Ethics for further clarification on issues surrounding child abuse.

Immunity from Liability

Iowa Code section 232.73 provides immunity from any civil or criminal liability that might otherwise be incurred or imposed when a person participates in good faith in:

  • Making a report, photographs, or x-rays,
  • Performing a medically relevant test, or
  • Assisting in an assessment of a child abuse report.

A person has the same immunity with respect to participation in good faith in any judicial proceeding resulting from the report or relating to the subject matter of the report.

In this section and section 232.77, medically relevant test means a test that produces reliable results of exposure to cocaine, heroin, amphetamine, methamphetamine, or other illegal drugs, or their combinations or derivatives, including a drug urine screen test.

Sanctions for Failure to Report Child Abuse

Iowa Code section 232.75 provides for civil and criminal sanctions for failing to report child abuse. Any person, official, agency, or institution required by this chapter to report a suspected case of child abuse who knowingly and willfully fails to do so is guilty of a simple misdemeanor.

Any person, official, agency, or institution required by Iowa Code section 232.69 to report a suspected case of child abuse who knowingly fails to do so, or who knowingly interferes with the making of such a report in violation of section 232.70, is civilly liable for the damages proximately caused by such failure or interference.

Sanctions for Reporting False Information

The act of reporting false information regarding an alleged act of child abuse to DHS or causing false information to be reported, knowing that the information is false or that the act did not occur, is classified as a simple misdemeanor under Iowa Code section 232.75, subsection 3.

If DHS receives a fourth report that identifies the same child as a victim of child abuse and the same person as the alleged abuser or that is from the same person, and DHS determined that the three earlier reports were entirely false or without merit, DHS may:

  • Determine that the report is again false or without merit due to the report’s spurious or frivolous nature
  • Terminate its assessment of the report
  • Provide information concerning the reports to the county attorney for consideration of criminal charges
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