Guided by the minimum standards set by federal law, individual states have their own definitions of child abuse and neglect, and in addition each state has mandatory reporting laws that require certain professionals and institutions to report suspected child maltreatment to a child protective services (CPS) agency. These people are called mandated reporters (DHHS, 2018). As mandated reporters, healthcare professionals are in a unique position to recognize and report abuse that is perpetrated on these helpless victims.
In the 1973 Child Protective Services Act: New York, in order to protect children who are victims of abuse or maltreatment, created a child protective system in statute with five fundamental components:
Today the laws that guide New York CPS services are Article 6, Title 6 of the Social Services Law and Article 10 of the Family Court Act. The entirety of both can be found online through the New York State Legislature's Website (http://public.leginfo.state.ny.us/navigate.cgi). [Laws/Laws of New York/Social Services (SOS)/Article 6/Title 6 AND Laws/Laws of New York/scroll down to Court Acts and choose FCT/Article 10.]
Article 6, Title 6. CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES includes the following sections:
411 - Findings and purpose.
412 - General definitions.
413 - Persons and officials required to report cases of suspected child abuse or maltreatment.
414 - Any person permitted to report.
415 - Reporting procedure.
416 - Obligations of persons required to report.
417 - Taking a child into protective custody.
418 - Mandatory reporting to and post-mortem investigation of deaths by medical examiner or coroner.
419 - Immunity from liability.
420 - Penalties for failure to report.
421 - Responsibility of the office.
422 - Statewide central register of child abuse and maltreatment.
422-A - Child abuse and neglect investigations; disclosure.
422-B - Local and regional fatality review teams.
422-C - Establishment of the child abuse medical provider program (CHAMP).
423 - Child protective service responsibilities and organization; purchase of service and reimbursement of cost; local plan.
423-A - Child advocacy centers established.
424 - Duties of the child protective service concerning reports of abuse or maltreatment.
424-A - Access to information contained in the statewide central register of child abuse and maltreatment.
424-B - Children in the care of certain public and private agencies.
425 - Cooperation of other agencies.
426 - Annual reports.
427 - Regulations of the commissioner.
427-A - Differential response programs for child protection assessments or investigations.
428 - Separability.
New York State recognizes that certain professionals are specially equipped to perform the important role of mandated reporter of child abuse or maltreatment. These include:
This list is periodically revised and updated through legislation.
In addition, since January 1, 1989 the New York State Education Law has required certain individuals, when initially applying for licensure or a limited permit, to show that they have completed the required training in the identification and reporting of child abuse and maltreatment. Periodically since 1989 the list of covered professions and specific requirements has been expanded. Complete information can be obtained from the NYS Education Department (NYSED, 2017a).
A mandated reporter is required in the state of New York to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment when they are presented with a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment in a situation where a child, parent, or other person legally responsible for the child is before the mandated reporter when the mandated reporter is acting in his or her official or professional capacity (SSL §413; NYSOCFS, 2016).
While anyone may make a report of suspected abuse, reports made by mandated reporters are more likely to be registered—accepted by the SCR for further investigation. It seems likely that this is due, at least in part, to better reporting based on training and professional awareness (NYSOCFS, 2011).
Numerous pieces of legislation related to mandatory reporters and reporting have been introduced in the New York legislature in recent years. The only one enacted occurred in 2014 when New York began requiring school athletic directors and school personnel or other persons required to hold a temporary coaching license or professional coaching certificate to report cases of suspected child abuse (NCSL, 2012–2015). However, as of April 2018, there is a bill pending in the New York State Legislature (Senate Bill S2158A) that would “require mandated reporters to report to law enforcement suspected child abuse involving a person in a position of authority or a position of trust” (NY State Senate, 2018).
Did You Know . . .
Any other person who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or maltreated may also report (SS Law § 414).
[This section is taken directly from NYS SSL §413.]
A mandated reporter’s role is, while acting in their professional or official capacity, to:
Report suspected incidents of child abuse or maltreatment/neglect.
Make the report to the SCR immediately upon the development of reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or maltreatment.
New York’s Social Services Law §413 requires reports when:
The law also states that (1) whenever a mandated reporter is required to report as a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility, or agency, he or she shall make the report as required—reports must contain the names of all other staff persons with direct knowledge of the allegations—but the law does not require more than one report from the agency for a single incident; and, (2) no retaliatory personnel action is allowed (SSL §413; NYSOCFS, 2016).
Social service workers only are additionally required to report or cause a report to be made when any person comes before them in their professional or official capacity with information from personal knowledge that causes them to have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is an abused or maltreated child [SSL §413(1)(d)].
All other mandated reporters are required to report or cause a report to be made only when confronted with a child who they suspect to be abused or maltreated or when a parent, guardian, custodian or other person legally responsible for a child provides information which, if true, would mean that child was abused or maltreated [SSL §413(1)(a)]. Further, any person is permitted to report any reasonable suspicion of abuse or maltreatment no matter how that information is brought to their attention [SSL §414], and OCFS encourages such reporting (NYSOCFS, 2017, Chapter 2, page A‑2).
Institutional Reporting Paradigm
Source: NYSOCFS, 2017.
If a person is acting within the scope of their employment or carrying out functions as part of the duties and responsibilities of their profession, they are acting in a professional capacity (NYSOCFS, 2016).
For example, healthcare providers examining a child in their practice who have a reasonable suspicion of abuse must report the concern. However, if the same person witnesses child abuse while playing tennis at a local park, he or she is not mandated to report that abuse. Mandated reporters’ legal responsibility to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment ceases when they stop practicing their profession. As noted above, however, anyone may report any suspected abuse or maltreatment at any time (NYSOCFS, 2016).