Most states in the United States require “mandatory reporting” for various types of abuse. In Oregon, for example, mandatory reporting is required for child abuse, elder abuse (people over 65 years of age), long-term care facility abuse, abuse of any adult, and for any child eligible for but not receiving special education.
“Any public or private official having reasonable cause to believe” that abuse has occurred has a duty to report such abuse. Oregon lists over 40 categories of persons who were considered to be “public or private officials.” These include physicians, school employees, peace officers, psychologists, members of the clergy, licensed marriage and family therapists, firefighters and emergency medical service providers, and, of course, attorneys.
The definition of “abuse” includes assault, mental injury, rape, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, prostitution, negligent treatment or maltreatment, threatened harm to a child, permitting a child to be on premises where methamphetamines are being manufactured, and unlawfully exposing a child to controlled substances. For elders abuse includes financial exploitation.
The duty to report is “immediate,” and in Oregon is satisfied by a simple telephone call to 1-855-SAFE (7233).
A failure to make the oral report (“mandatory reporting”) can result in disciplinary action by the professional boards of the various mandatory reporters and in some instances can also result in civil liability for those who fail to do their duty. For example, in Oregon a registered nurse lost her license for six months because she feared consequences to herself if she reported the child abuse, even though she had reason to know it occurring.
We can all help our communities to be safe and protect vulnerable persons by doing our duty to pick up the telephone and call the designated number in our state to report any form of abuse.
The law protects mandatory reporters from civil actions if it turns out that no abuse was occurring.
There is a narrow exception excusing attorneys, psychiatrists, psychologists, and members of the clergy, from reporting abuse if the information is “privilege” or “if disclosure of the information would be detrimental to the client.”
If the “mandatory reporter” informs the government agency of the abuse, and the agency fails to act, then in some circumstances the agency can be held civilly liable for the continuing damages to those being abused.
If you’re in need of assistance with mandatory reporting or any other legal issues, Andersen & Linthorst is here for you. As experienced Oregon lawyers, we are dedicated to offering guidance and support to our community.