States Discover Drawbacks To Mandated Reporting Laws

( – Mandatory reporting laws require teachers, doctors, and other officials to call the police and report signs of child abuse. All 50 states have a type of mandatory reporting law. Now some of those states are rolling the laws back.

Lawmakers in Colorado, New York, California, and other states are looking into ways to roll back the laws. There are concerns that they are being disproportionately used against families that have a person with a disability, poor people, and minorities.

Colorado’s Child Protection Ombudsman, Stephanie Villafuerte, is overseeing a task force that’s looking into the mandatory reporting laws in her state to determine whether they should remain in place. She said that they are trying to figure out how to weed out reports that aren’t appropriate to help people who are being “disproportionately impacted.”

The Child Welfare Information Gateway also raises concerns about the impact mandatory reporting laws have on families. The federal website states that the current system “has led to the over-surveillance of families experiencing poverty and families of color.” As a result, some families no longer trust the system and are reluctant to reach out for help when they need it.

In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau funded a study that found that 37.4% of kids will be the subject of a neglect or child abuse investigation by the time they reach adulthood. That increased to 53% for black children.

According to NPR, research has found investigations happen far more often into minority, poor families, or those that include someone with a disability. Those kids are more likely to end up in the system, but the overwhelming majority of cases found no abuse.

Not everyone supports changing the laws. Some believe that there could be missed cases of child abuse if that happens. Healthcare and childcare workers have expressed concern that not reporting all of the cases could put them in legal jeopardy, both criminally and civilly.

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