Child Abuse Essay Example


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The Dilemma of Mandatory Reporting

Child Abuse Essay: Introduction

In the USA, child abuse is a critical and extensive issue that happens in many ways, such as physical, sexual, neglect, emotional, and so on. In the US, approximately 700.000 children are abused each year. In 2015, conjectural 683.000 children were victims of abuse and neglect (“Child Welfare Information Getaway,”). This issue affects children's lives physically and mentally, and even it affects their adulthood. They become people that have low self-esteem and seeking impairing relationships. This crime accompanies the Mandated Reporting Laws, which are established to help advocate awareness of child abuse in the USA. These laws can be taught as defiant to disciplines like counseling, psychology, medicine, nursing, education, etc. This debatable issue causes some professionals to criticize because they think that these laws hamper their professional relationships with children. People separate two sides in this issue, and some of them advocate the idea of Mandatory Reporting Laws as a children protector. Still, some of them believe that it affects the aspect of destructively. Both sides justify their thoughts, but it is hard to say that one side is right or wrong. In this paper, this critical issue will be discussed in both aspects.

Mandatory Reporting Overview

Mandated Reporting Laws and Human Service Policy have a great role in protecting children from abuse and fulfilling their needs in many areas. Mandatory Reporter can be anyone such as daycare workers, family practitioners, hospital staff, medical examiners, child care workers, police officers, nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists, school administrators, teachers, social workers, anyone who sees any kind of child abuse (“Child Welfare Information Getaway,” 2012). People are obliged to report child abuse in many states of the USA. In countries where everyone is a mandatory reporter, no one can ignore any kind of abuse. If someone ignores and avoids to report that, it means this person will be charged as a possible criminal penalty. In states where people do not have to be a mandatory reporter, this condition works differently. In such states, reporting is up to the people’s own claims. People are not charged for that.

On the other hand, Human Service Policy also works for a child to protect them from any kind of crime. That policy deals with poverty, populations, economic support for families, youth development, child education, and child welfare, and so on. States laws of child abuse and neglect especially make a difference in children's lives and their growth process (“Child Welfare Information Getaway,” 2012). These laws make clear that people must report any kind of child abuse or neglect to child protective agencies. Physical abuse is defined as a purposely damaging act to the child, such as biting, burning, striking, kicking, and anything which causes physical damage. But in nearly 42 states and American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, any attempt to a child that will cause damage to health or welfare is also acknowledged as child abuse.

Also, neglect is generally admitted as a parental issue. Parents or anyone who is responsible for a child have to provide food, shelter, clothing, medical care, education, and other vital needs. In the circumstances which are lack of these needs, it means there is a problem of child abuse which is needed to solve. These complications are everywhere in the USA, and reporting is expected from any individual who is a witness. But in seven states, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands, reporters have difficulty deciding to report (“Child Welfare Information Getaway,”. Because the Laws expect evidence for this abuse or neglect to be certain about charging the criminals, because of that, some mandatory reporters avoid having contact with child protective services due to the lack of evidence.

Besides, from a different viewpoint, mandatory reporting has disadvantages for children and professionals. Professionals believe that it endangers the relationship between children and them. It must be confidential what children told their psychologists or any other professionals. According to a child's point of view, the occurrence of the confidential information reduces the child’s choice of sharing their difficulties and problems, and hiding their questions will give them psychologically permanent harm even in their adulthood.

Besides, according to the professionals’ point of view, it has huge irrevocable disadvantages for their job. The occurrence of confidential information means that the most important part of their job is disregarded disrespectfully. Even it costs them to lose their job. It is fair enough to criticize these laws for these people because they want to do their job with discipline, and these mandatory reporter laws are unequivocally cross disciplines. And this lack of discipline is not acceptable for neither professionals or children. But child abuse is also not acceptable, and anything should be done, which prevents children from any physical, mental, and emotional abuse. The most important thing in this issue is not discipline, and it is children. Almost every decision and its consequences have negative sides, but the important question is what we want to sacrifice. If we have just a little bit of humanity in us, we should know that no amount of discipline can be more important than a human's life.

Immunity and Anonymity

Although mandated reporters can request anonymity for privacy reasons, they are generally demanded to state their names when reporting. Also, "a mandated reporter who knowingly makes a false report will ordinarily have their identity disclosed to the appropriate law enforcement agency, and their identity may be disclosed to the alleged perpetrator of the reported abuse or neglect," ("Child Welfare Information Gateway," 2012, p. 3). Despite the fact that some mandated reporters may find such regulations risky and strict for themselves, these can be easily justified because children are extremely vulnerable to interrogations and examinations, and misconduct or misexamination may result in irreparable damages to such vulnerable children.

Therefore, a mandated reporter may face penalties. However, reports, made in good faith, grants immunity from criminal and civil liability. On the other hand, there may exist sanctions or fines such as compulsory training sessions for those who fail to report suspected neglect and abuse in accordance with relevant state and federal regulations.

Federal and State Regulations

Federal and State Laws are guidelines for child protection and child welfare, and there are different laws for child welfare in each state of the USA. For instance, The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is the main body of the child abuse legislation which aims fair, disciplinary, and legal help for children to prevent them from any kind of abuse. All states have their laws and regulations for the safety of children like Mandatory Reporting, which creates a society that has a response to the abuse and neglect. When we look at the states in detail, it is seen that all of them have a different way but also the same aim, to protect children from potential threats. In Alaska, the statute is harm or threats that are sexual, emotional, and physical abuse and neglect against a child under the age of 18. But there is an exception for religious reasons for parents' failure to acquire medical help for the child. In Arkansas, statute explains child abuse as recklessly and knowingly acts which damages child sexually, emotionally, or mentally.

But there is an exception for poverty and corporal punishment. In Washington, there is an exception for Christian scientists and physical disability. On the contrary, in Utah, Tennessee, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska, Maryland, and Hawaii, there are no exceptions. Thanks to these laws, justice is done for child abusers. They pay for what they did with criminal and civil penalties in states. The penalties are prison sentence, fines, recording as a sex offender, injunctions, loss of parental rights, and so on. Whichever state it is in, the offenders of this kind of crime should be judged and persecuted.


Fig. 1 Unique victims of child abuse in the United States in 2018 (“Statista,” 2020)

If we want to look at how mandatory reporting affected social services, we have to dig down deeper to see each fact. Let us start from the bright side first. Mandatory reporting shows that everyone, including the government, knows there is a significant number of child abuse. Yet, it is mostly hidden from everyone else. Therefore, the law's aim is to find proof of child abuse happening at first and try to end it before it goes too far. It also helps in creating a national image, an image that protecting children from abuse and harm is every adult's responsibility. Thus, creating a culture that is child-centered and also very much against harm towards anyone. Looking at the paper, it looks great, a matter of fact, too great. And most of the thought before this law came out, and it was just common knowledge to help a child after seeing signs of abuse. The problem is, most of the aims I have mentioned above have not been fulfilled at all. Most importantly, no one thought about the monetary problems this idea would bring. At first, no one mentioned any additional funding to these services. The reason for this problem was that the same requirements that were put into physicians were put to other professions as well without any amount of increase in resources to the relevant authorities.

Although Dr. Harry Kempe brought this idea to put up a law, his idea of child abuse in his article "The Battered Child Syndrome" was only children that face severe violent physical abuse. But the number of that kind of violence against children was just around mere hundreds. After this spread of mandatory reporting to a big number of the profession without any funding, we, and also Dr. Kempe know for sure that there are millions of child abuse cases throughout the nation and that thanks to Kempe's then-not-so-good-calculated theory, reporting of every type of child abuse from mild to the severe multiplied accordingly. Even after putting the lack of resources aside, there is a catch to reporting laws. That is, people are required to report their suspicions about a child that is being abused, or they might face sanctions. The sanction can just be shaming or a fine, but it can also be as big as imprisonment. Seeing this risk of not reporting, it seems logical to be on the other side of the law rather than being the one who is punished.

The number of reported cases exploded in jurisdictions with mandatory reporting. Looking at the USA, for example, between 1963 and 2011, reports of suspected abuse and neglect increased by more than 2000%. The reason why mandatory reporting did not cause such a huge increase in reported cases in Australia is that reporting a suspicious child abuse victim was already a common sense norm. But this brings us the problem of over-reporting. Between 2002-2003, there were 198,355 reports of child abuse and neglect, but only 40,416 of them could be substantiated. Proving something you suspect is very hard. Also, in the way of trying to solve a problem, this 'solution' created more of the same problem. Putting it this way, this law proposed in order to help the kids that are overshadowed by other cases in the jurisdiction. But by applying this law, the number of reports without any proof skyrocketed, (although the number of substantiated reports increased, the calls that can not be substantiated also did). This put office of jurisdiction and also people working there in a bad position. Without any funding to employ new workers, they had to deal with the massive amount of reports that were coming each day and hour. What this caused is that among the reports that are made by people who are just too afraid to face fines and maybe even imprisonment, the real children that face abused were just too difficult to reach.

The number of uncertain reports overwhelmed the high percentage of child abuse cases. Frank Ainsworth undertook a study in 2002, looking at statistics about these reports, and the scary thing he has found was that while in Western Australia, the proportion of reports investigated was 97.4%, the same proportion was 59.6% for New South Wales (“Child Welfare Information Getaway,” 2012). These statistics are very alarming because they show that large proportions of the child protection budget were going to the investigation of unsubstantiated cases (According to Ainsworth's estimate, up to 75% of the budget). Even a more saddening point is the number of cases that never begun, in New South Wales case 40.4%, and the question arises as to how many of those uncompleted reports concerned children in real danger (John, 2013). Maybe some proportion of those funds could have been better spent on family support services. Unfortunately, this outcome is no different in the United States. The problems don't end here either. Think about this. You are a child living happily with your parents and fell in the playground just like any other child.

After some time, investigators and maybe even cops arrive at your house about child abuse and maybe even take one of your parents after not believing them and the worst-case scenario, removal of children. This is, sadly, the case for a good percentage of unsubstantiated cases. It is causing trauma and fear to children all over countries that have mandatory report laws. Most of the time, the removal of children is an 'emergency.' When it is decided, no notice or any chance to defend themselves is given to the parents. Apart from the trauma, this causes to children and the family, and there is also the denial of due process, invasion of privacy, and tarnishing of reputations. Even if you would like to have a chance to speak for yourself, there is the economic harm inflicted when parents are forced to get legal representation. Once again, it is not hard to see that mandatory reporting is not a simple matter. If we want to entirely depend on this compulsory reporting system, we first have to fund the investigative services to do their jobs thoroughly and swiftly. But that still wouldn't solve the problem of consequent harm done to innocent parents and children.

We see that the main goal does not contain any bad intentions, a society without child abuse. It is tough to find and evidently detects abused children. The way this law was prepared just seems like it was rushed just based on an article. If prepared without thinking of all the possibilities and consequences, a huge law like this could make things worse, just like it did. There are, of course, better solutions, at least better than the ones we currently have. For instance, if we can make it possible for responsible adults to recognize the early symptoms of child abuse in children they know, like their neighbors, intervene effectively and to give children a free space with courage to speak up about the abuse they are suffering to people who can help, is one of the many solutions. While we are looking for a better alternative to our current system, it is important to learn how to identify a child abuse case.

There are many resources to guide decision-making in child maltreatment situations such as The Child Welfare Information Gateway, Childhelp Child Abuse Education & Prevention Resources, etc. Also, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University, Dr. Stephanie Hartselle, encourages people not to figure out complex dilemmas on their own, instead consult a colleague or the management at your agency or institution. She also added that Mental health professionals could play an important role in both working with individual families and children but also in advocating for broader systemic changes (Yasgur, 2019). Unfortunately, most of the problems we face right now were also present when other mandatory reporting laws were put into the rule. In the upcoming years, our best possible to put on a new law is just to consult not just a couple of physicians but a lot of mental health professionals to create a more fool-proof and effective system.


Federal and State Regulations

When considered the overall regulations of the United States, one may readily claim that there does not exist the same approach to different issues from States (Paul, 2003). In other words, not every State applies the same approach to the same topics. For instance, although some states such as New York and Washington have a certain positive approach to sociological and psychological nation-wide issue such as conversion therapy for juveniles who have committed a crime, many other States still have the prejudice and negative approach to such youngster (“Chil Welfare Information Gateway,” 2012). Similarly, there exist contradiction and differences among regulations by different States. In this sense, one can readily infer that these children belong to our country, and they will be the future. Therefore, there should be strict and protective regulations for every child who has experienced abuse across the nation.

On the other hand, the investigation process of such incidents may have considerable impacts on children and their families (“Child Welfare Information Getaway,” 2012). For instance, long, physical, and repeated examinations can lead to emotional traumas and scars for both sides. A child may be removed wrongful, or if not removed, the distrust, insecurity, and fear of children may continuously increase. Therefore, both investigators and jurisdiction authorities should analyze the incidents meticulous and properly by considering the cross-disciplinary areas such as the psychology of the individuals and children involved except for the sexual abuse incidents. Also, authorities should consider the long-term results of the process (irreparable damages and psychological scars), and the misconduct of the process may result in drastic damage to child/parent emotional bonds.

Parental Advice

According to statistics, the neglect by parents consists %78.3 of total maltreatment to children (“Child Welfare Information Gateway,” 2012). Accordingly, the statistic seems to be drastic when compared to the other reasons such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological maltreatment with %17.8, %9.5, and %7.6, respectively (“Child Welfare Information Gateway,” 2012). In this direction, rather than merely protecting physically, parents of such children need to have psychological, sociological, and parental training by law. That is, during the jurisdiction process, the relevant authorities need to consider the background of such issues rather than merely sentencing the parties., and a following compulsory training should be taken into consideration during the jurisdiction process. Also, non-governmental organizations should participate in such a nation-wide issue and come up with creative, protective, and responsible training sessions in order to educate the parent about a child's probable responses and psychology to neglect by parents.

Child Abuse Essay: Conclusion

In conclusion, even though the amount of child abuse in our has reduced over the past years, it is still huge. But when it comes to trying and solving this issue, we face a big dilemma in the case of mandatory reporting of child abuse. Sadly, we faced this problem in many other cases of mandatory reporting laws too. The good part of it is that it is a step that is probably the first big step we have taken. It will eventually take us closer to solving the issue. But the way we have planned this solution is neither as effective nor as precise as we thought it would be. In the way of solving an important problem, the system created more victims than there was before. From the false accusings in the US to the big lawsuits in Australia concerning children taken away from their families without a notice. This system has it's benefits and its disadvantages, and in my opinion, for the current system, the disadvantages outweigh the benefits. It can and should be improved and strengthened by new research and data. Also, instead of just jumping right into reporting people, people should be educated about how to spot a child abuse victim. They should be taught how to think twice before accusing someone without any evidence. Because in the way of trying to save them, many children were taken away from their families.


Are You a Mandatory Reporter of Child Abuse? (2019, December 27). Accessed on

Child Abuse Laws. (n.d.). Accessed on

Child Abuse Protection Laws. (n.d.). Accessed on

Child Welfare Information Gateway (2012). Children’s Bureau (ed.). "Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect" (PDF). pp. 1–19.

John, E. S. (2013, December 12). Mandatory reporting: the benefits, difficulties, and drawbacks.

Paul C. (2003). “Burden of Proop Begone: The Pernicious Effect of Emergency Removal in Child Protective Proceedings”. Social Science Research Network: 1—43.

Statista Research Department. (2018, January 16). Child abuse in the U.S. - reported victims by state 2018.

Yasgur, B. S. (2019, September 10). Is Mandatory Reporting of Child Maltreatment in the Best Interests of the Child?

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Pelin Dalkiran
Pelin Dalkiran
Studied Maths and Coding @DEU, currently working as Front End Lead at Tamara Research, loves writing, coding, and hiking.

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