MANDATORY CHILD ABUSE REPORTING OBLIGATION
In the wake of the child abuse tragedy at Penn State, Oregon has passed new legislation expanding its mandatory child abuse reporter list to include ALL employees of colleges and universities. This new law takes effect January 1, 2013, and is both a professional and personal obligation. It is important that all EOU faculty and staff understand their child abuse reporting obligations with the advent of this new law. (HB 4016, ORS 419B.010)
SUMMARY OF LEGISLATIVE CHANGES
Certain OUS/EOU employees (child care workers, medical care providers, lawyers) have always been considered “public and private officials” covered under Oregon’s mandatory abuse reporting law. For those individuals, nothing has changed. What’s new is that the law will now define ALL university employees as “public and private officials” making them mandatory child abuse reporters as well. The law does not cover volunteers, contractors, or students who are not employees (unless the student happens to work in a profession that is otherwise covered in the mandatory reporter list).
CHILD ABUSE REPORTING OBLIGATION
You must immediately report to the Department of Human Services (DHS) or law enforcement if you have “reasonable cause to believe” that any child with whom you come into contact has suffered abuse, or that any person with whom you come into contact has abused a child. A child is any unmarried person under 18 years of age.
24/7 PERSONAL OBLIGATION
It is important to understand that the child abuse reporting obligation is a personal obligation,and goes beyond the workplace. This means that you are a mandatory child abuse reporter 24/7, and you are required to report suspected child abuse anytime, anywhere. In other words, whether you learn of suspected abuse or a suspected abuser while at work, while coaching your child’s soccer team, or when shopping for groceries on the weekend, your reporting obligation is the same.
HOW TO MAKE A REPORT
The report should be made orally in the county where the reporter is located at the time of the suspicious contact. You can reach Union County’s abuse reporting line during normal business hours (Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm) by calling 1-866-538-5804, extension 272. After normal business hours, you should contact the Union County Sheriff’s Office at 541-963-1017. If the situation is an emergency or a child is at imminent risk, call 911 immediately.
WHAT THE REPORT SHOULD INCLUDE
If known, the report should include:
- name and age of the child
- nature and extent of abuse, including evidence of previous abuse
- explanation given for the abuse
- names and addresses of the child’s parents or others responsible for the child’s care
- other helpful information to establish the cause of the abuse or the identity of the perpetrator
CONSEQUENCE FOR FAILURE TO REPORT
A failure to report is a Class A criminal violation of the law and carries a maximum penalty of $2,000. Some mandatory reporters have also been sued for damages in civil court for failure to report.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED ABUSE
Below is a summary of what is generally considered abuse. The complete legal definition (ORS 491B.005) can be viewed at http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/419b.html.
- Physical injury, caused by other than accidental means, including an injury that appears to be at variance with the explanation given for the injury.
- Mental injury, which includes only observable and substantial mental impairment caused by cruelty, with due regard to the culture of the child.
- Sexual abuse, including rape, sodomy, unlawful sexual penetration or incest.
- Exploitation, including prostitution or the sexual delinquency of a minor or any conduct that allows or encourages a child to perform sexual acts for observation, photographing, filming, etc.
- Neglect, including failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care that is likely to endanger the child’s health or welfare.
- Threatened harm, meaning subjecting a child to a substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or safety, including exposing a child to the manufacture of methamphetamine or to any controlled substance that subjects a child to a substantial risk of harm.
- Buying or selling a person under 18 years of age.
“Abuse” does not include reasonable discipline unless the discipline results in one of the conditions described above.
IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY FOR MAKING A GOOD FAITH REPORT
Anyone participating in good faith in making a child abuse report has immunity from any criminal or civil liability. This immunity is also in place with respect to participation in any subsequent judicial proceeding. To the extent possible, your identity as the reporter will be kept confidential. (ORS 419B.025)
LINKS TO OTHER RESOURCES
The Department of Human Services has a Mandatory Reporter training video available for view on its website at: http//www.oregon.gov/dhs/abuse/pages/mandatory_report.aspx. The video runs roughly 25 minutes, and provides valuable information to help understand what it means to be a mandatory reporter. DHS also has a detailed booklet, titled, “What You Can Do About Child Abuse,”which provides additional support materials to help inform mandatory reporters of their obligations. That booklet can be found at: https://apps.state.or.us/Forms/Served/de9061.pdf.