Mandated Reporters Flaws
Mandated Reporters  have a key role in protecting our children from suspected child abuse. These individuals have an affirmative duty and obligation to report to DCF when they suspect child abuse. Mandated Reporters have a wide discretion in determining what is and what is not child abuse. The wide latitude of discretion can lead to differing results relating to sexual abuse, physical abuse, and or neglect. What one Mandated Reporter suspects as child abuse, another Mandated Reporter, using their discretion, may not report to DCF as suspected child abuse. This leads to the major flaw of Mandated Reporters because the lack of training leads to varied outcomes. Parents and Caretakers may be caught up in this wide latitude of discretion utilized by the Mandated Reporter resulting in various outcomes.
Mandated Reporters are individuals that work in close proximity with children. The legislature has required a long laundry list of individuals that are considered Mandated Reporters such as doctors, teacher, nurses, social workers, therapists, the police and many others. One of the major flaws of the mandated reporting legislation is the failure to name coaches as a part of this laundry list. Coaches are significant and crucial role models for our young male and females. Jennifer Zarate for WWLP 22 wrote an article called “Massachusetts to Strengthen Child Abuse protection through mandated reporting reform” where she discussed how “private athletic coaches” are currently not Mandated Reporters. Some of the most successful sport coaches are also some of the most inspirational leaders to their players.
The New England Patriot coach, Bill Belichick, has won the most super bowls in the NFL due to his fantastic leadership abilities. The legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is known not only for his accomplishment on the basketball court as a coach, but also for his inspiring words of wisdom. The influence and inspiration of coaches extends beyond professional coaches. Coaches of young athletes are also very influential in a child’s life. They form a close bond with their athletes and get to know them better than most Mandated Reporters. This makes it odd that coaches are not Mandated Reporters because there are few people who are in a better position to recognize signs of suspected child abuse.
Another major flaw affecting Mandated Reporters is their training. According to the article “Panel: Bring Private Athletic Programs under Mandated Reporter Law” written by Michael P. Norton, for the Gloucester Daily Times, Mandated Reporters are needed to protect young athletes. Mr. Norton explains “The committee also learned from child welfare officials that Massachusetts still has not implemented a training system that would enable mandated reporters licensed by the state to complete statutorily-required training on recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect. A 2010 state law required certain mandated reporters to complete such training.” (Norton). This shows that a lot of Mandated Reporters have not been properly trained to recognize signs of suspected child abuse and neglect, and this prevents them from doing their jobs properly. Also, according to Jennifer Zarate’s article for WWLP 22, Massachusetts has not developed “a standardized mandated reporter training program.” (Zarate).
One more flaw affecting Mandated Reporters, such as Caregivers, is the discretion involved with submitting a report. A Mandated Reporter is supposed to file a report with DCF if they have reason to believe a child is suffering from abuse or neglect, but there can be several factors that interfere with this process . Massachusetts General Laws chapter 119 Section 51A states that a mandated reporter “shall immediately communicate with the department orally and, within 48 hours, shall file a written report with the department detailing the suspected abuse or neglect”. Mandated Reporters frequently violate the law by not filing suspected child abuse in a timely fashion.
By not allowing coaches to become Mandated Reporters, not having a standard system of training for Mandated Reporters, and by having multiple issues surrounding filing a report, taking on the role of a Mandated Reporter is more complicated than it should be. Massachusetts Legislature should allow more influential figures, such as coaches, in the community to become Mandated Reporters. Massachusetts Legislature should make sure the training and policies surrounding these reporters allow them to execute their duties at the highest possible level and, therefore, also making it uniform.
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According to Mass.gov, Mandated Reporters include: “person employed by a state agency within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services including but not limited to employees of the: (1) Department of Developmental Services, (2) Department of Mental Health, (3) Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, (4) person employed by a private agency providing services to persons with disabilities, (5) physician, (6) medical intern, (7) hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons, (8) medical examiner, (9) dentist, (10) psychologist, (11) nurse, (12) chiropractor, (12) podiatrist, (13) osteopath, (14) public or private school teacher, (15) educational administrator, (16) guidance or family counselor, (17) day care worker, (18) probation officer, (19) social worker, (20) foster parent, (21) police officer” (Mass.gov).
According to Massgov, “Taking the step to actually file a report can be difficult for many reasons: (1) Caregivers may be shocked, angered or embarrassed by what they hear or see. (2) Caregivers may be hearing information that is very contrary to their own personal standards. (3) Caregivers may be unclear of their responsibility to report or what constitutes abuse or neglect. (4) Caregivers may be fearful that they will be brought into a legal matter where their reputation and character may be questioned. (5) Caregivers may not want to become involved. (6) Caregivers may be fearful of retaliation from the caregiver/alleged abuser or their agency. (7) The Caregiver/alleged abuser may be a friend and co-worker. (8) Caregivers may be afraid that reporting will make the situation worse. (9) Caregivers may be fearful of alienating the caregiver/abuser and having needed services refused. (10) Caregivers may be reluctant to break the “Code of Silence” among employees.” (Maas.gov).