New updates released for mandatory child abuse reporting law

Published 4:15 pm Friday, August 9, 2013

New updates to Alabama’s Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting law released Aug. 1 will allow more people to report evidence of child abuse when they see it.

Chilton County Department of Human Resources Director Marilyn Colson said there has been an increase this fiscal year of child abuse cases in Chilton County with 230 reports or concerns of child abuse to DHR from Oct. 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013.

Colson said during the month of July, 32 calls were received so the current fiscal year is on target to be about 30-50 calls more than the previous fiscal year.

Data from Oct. 1, 2011-Sept. 30, 2012 had 292 concerns or reports of child abuse reported to DHR for the year.

With an increase in calls, changes to the law–including the addition of physical therapists being a group that can now legally report child abuse cases and employees of both public and private K-12 facilities as well as employees of public and private institutions of postsecondary and higher education,–will hopefully allow more reports of suspected child abuse cases to be made.

“We have a wonderful partnership with law enforcement so when a report of abuse or neglect is made, we can look into that,” Colson said. “The changes to the law clarify some things to make it more clear who is required by law to make a report of child abuse.”

Colson said previously, the law did not define employees of postsecondary institutions but the new addition provides more clarity for who is a mandatory reporter.

Under the new changes, when a child is known or suspected to be a victim of child abuse or neglect, the mandatory reporter himself is required to report orally by telephone or direct communication immediately, followed by a written report to a “duly constituted authority.”

Previously, the law permitted a person to notify his or her supervisor and the supervisor would then be responsible for making the report.

That process is no longer permitted and the person who has direct knowledge or suspicion of abuse or neglect must be the one to make the report.

Any public or private employer who discharges, suspends, disciplines or penalizes an employee solely for reporting suspected child abuse or neglect will be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.

Currently, mandatory reporters are considered medical facilities including all hospitals, clinics and sanitariums. Medical professions include doctors, physicians, surgeons, medical examiners, coroners, dentists, osteopaths, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists, physical therapists, nurses, pharmacists and mental health professions.

Those involved in education include employees of both public and private K-12 facilities; schoolteachers and officials; day care workers or employees; and employees of public and private institutions of postsecondary and higher education.

Local and state officials including peace officers, law enforcement officials and social workers are considered mandatory reporters as well as those involved in the clergy.

Also included are any ordained, licensed or commissioned minister, pastor, priest, rabbi or practitioner of any established church or religious organization or any person who devotes a substantial portion of his or her time and abilities to the service of his or her church or religious organization.

Also, anyone called to render aid or medical assistance to any child is allowed to report cases.