Reasonable Suspicion of Child Abuse: Finding a Common Language

In the United States, the implementation of a successful system of mandated reporting of suspected child abuse continues to be plagued by the absence of a clear standard for when one must report. All 50 states of the U.S. have laws requiring certain individuals to report suspected child abuse. However, at present, there are variable thresholds for mandated reporting and no clear consensus on how existing thresholds should be interpreted. Because “child abuse” is often present as a possible etiology for injuries and non-infectious conditions that beset children, it is problematic to suggest that “the mere possibility of child abuse” qualifies as cause to report. In an effort to move toward a more effective system of mandated reporting of child maltreatment, this paper discusses how the absence of a clear threshold affects mandated reporters, examines the relevant legal and conceptual issues, and suggests future directions for policy, practice, and research
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