Tremont Sheldon P.C. saw this article written by Susan Campbell of the Hartford Courant and thought it brought up an interesting point. She has written many articles on sexual abuse and different sexual abuse scandals. The article follows, but we thought it would be helpful to define a mandated reporter. Under Connecticut law, the following people are mandated reporters of suspected child abuse: doctors, nurses, medical examiners, dentists, dental hygienists, psychologists, coaches, school teachers, school principals, school guidance counselors, school paraprofessionals, social workers, police officers, juvenile or adult probation and /or parole officers, members of the clergy, pharmacists, physical therapists, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists,
mental health professionals, physician’s assistants, certified EMT providers, certified drug and alcohol counselors, licensed marital and family therapists, sexual assault and/or battered women’s counselors, paid child care providers in public or private facilities, child day care centers, licensed group and /or family day care centers, employees of the Department of Children and Families or the Department of Public Health if responsible for licensing day care centers homes or youth camps or the Office of Child Advocate and the Child Advocate.Any person so identified who in the course of his or her employment or profession has reasonable cause to believe or suspect that a child has been abused or neglected or has been inflicted with nonaccidental injuries or is at imminent risk of serious harm must report or cause a report to be made in accordance with state law. Violation of the law will result in a monetary fine and required participation in an educational and training program. See Connecticut General Statutes Sections 17-101(b); 17a-101a.
Surely you don’t have to think about that. First, you’d act. Then? You’d report it. Ethically, we are all mandated reporters, or people charged to tell authorities if we see or suspect child abuse. Here in Connecticut, those authorities are the law enforcement agencies, and the state Department of Children and Family Services.But legally, Connecticut’s list of mandated reporters includes members of specific professions, such as medicine, education, child care, and the like. The rest of us — again, legally — are off the hook. In fact, just 18 states (and Puerto Rico) assign to all adults the role of mandated reporter, said Anna Doroghazi, director of public policy and communication at Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services.Another state with a fairly narrowly defined list of mandated reporters? Pennsylvania, where all eyes are on a horrible, institutional child sex abuse scandal at Penn State University. According to a 23-page grand jury indictment, reports of the school’s defensive football coordinator Gerald A. Sandusky’s alleged sexual abuse of a series of boys never left the campus. No child protection agencies were called, nor were police. Instead, Sandusky was allowed to do what any skilled pedophile would do: He put himself in close proximity to vulnerable youths — in this case, with a charity he founded. He plied those kids with gifts, and he gave them opportunities they never would have had — all in exchange for sex. The people who should have done something didn’t. Despite the horrendous nature of what Sandusky is accused of doing, time and again the institution came first.Does anyone else smell the foul stench of George Reardon, St. Francis Hospital’s former chief of endocrinology? There’s a time-honored pattern of pedophiles plowing through generations of children while adults look the other way in order to protect the institution.Imagine, instead, if we shifted our loyalties to children, and we were all mandated reporters — everyone, no exceptions. And that would not mean we make a call to our supervisor, our athletic director, our division chair, our parents. We see or suspect something, we go straight to the police. Period.Why is that so hard to understand? Why has the idea that children need protection been almost an afterthought in this country? We had an animal protection agency (the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) before we thought to look out for children. In fact, the ASPCA took on the first known child abuse case in New York in the 1870s.Connecticut passed its first mandated reporting law for physicians in 1965, and expanded the list to nurses, teachers and social workers two years later. Other groups have since been added, including clergy, foster parents and mental health professionals, but that shouldn’t make the rest of us any less vigilant. If there’s one thing Penn State has taught us, it’s this: Childhood sex abuse won’t be stopped if we keep looking the other way.At the Capitol, Rep. Diana S. Urban, D-North Stonington, and Sen. Terry B. Gerratana, D-New Britain, co-chairs of the state legislature’s Select Committee on Children, are exploring the state’s mandated reporting laws. Urban, who mentors youths at her North Stonington equestrian center, is uniquely aware of the special role coaches play in the lives of children.”Children look to their coaches for far more than coaching, and a good coach does more than help them improve in sports. Do you know what those children dressed as for Halloween?” Urban asked. “Me.Their coach.”If their research shows a need — and I very much think it will — Urban and Gerratana are prepared to sponsor legislation to expand the state’s definition of mandated reporter. There’s a similar effort in Washington. I can’t imagine opposition to that, can you? But if any one does argue, here’s Urban’s response: “The child comes first.” She’s prepared to repeat that as often as necessary.