Concerned about a recent rise in child abuse disclosures that have gone unreported by professionals who are required by law to report such incidents, Berrien County Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli has issued a reminder warning to all mandated reporters, including every school district in the county, about their responsibility to report them, and urging proper training to ensure they stem the tide.
Pierangeli has shared with us the letter that he has sent to professionals who routinely engage with children reminding them of their responsibility to properly report child abuse or neglect, reminding them that failure to do so is a crime in and of itself. Here’s what Pierangeli has sent:
“We have recently become aware of an increase in child abuse disclosures going unreported by professionals who are required to do so. As a mandated reporter, failing to properly report any witness, suspicion, or disclosure of child abuse or neglect is a crime. Therefore, as the Prosecuting Attorney of Berrien County, I am reaching out to you to remind you of your legal and ethical responsibilities.
It is important to know that The Michigan Child Protection Law requires the reporting of child abuse and neglect by certain persons and permits the reporting of child abuse and neglect by all persons. Medical and mental health care workers, social workers, school administrators, school counselors, teachers, regulated childcare providers, law enforcement officers, and members of the clergy are examples of some of those considered mandated reporters under this law.
Mandated reporters are an essential part of the child protection system because they have an enhanced capacity, through their expertise and direct contact with children, to identify suspected child abuse and neglect. Mandated reporters are always required to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the Michigan Department for Health & Human Services (MDHHS). It is also important to note that:
- There are civil and criminal penalties for a mandated reporter’s failure to make a report. Likewise, there is civil and criminal immunity for someone making a report in good faith.
- The information in a report must be provided by the individual who had observed the injuries or had contact with the child regarding the report. This cannot be delegated to another individual. All mandated reporters involved should make their own reports, and/or list the others’ names and contact info on their DHHS-3200 report.
- As a result of the pandemic, online communication has become a regular point of contact for many who work with children. Recognizing abuse can be done virtually and these suspicions need to be reported, even if you did not have face-to-face contact with the alleged victim.
As community leaders in the investigation, treatment, and prevention of child abuse in our community, the Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Michigan offers several abuse awareness, prevention, and reporting trainings at no cost. It is highly recommended by this office that all Youth Serving Organizations offer these trainings to all staff on an annual basis as a part of your regular professional development/staff orientation. If you have questions, or you would like more information, please contact The Children’s Advocacy Center of Southwest Michigan’s Prevention and Outreach Specialist, Allie Kibler-Campbell: firstname.lastname@example.org or 269.556.9640.”