Legal Issues and Documentation
The investigation of suspected child abuse is a multidisciplinary effort; police officers, child protective services (CPS) workers, prosecutors, and healthcare professionals all have vital roles to play in the identification and protection of the abused child. There are tensions inherent in the multidisciplinary approach. Professionals must maintain their distinct roles and perform individual responsibilities while recognizing that their actions have a great impact on the efficacy of the investigative effort. Because physicians, nurses, hospital social workers, and paramedics are often the first professionals to have contact with the abused child and his or her family, healthcare providers become crucial participants in the gathering of information for the investigation and potential prosecution of the perpetrator. The safety of a child often depends on the healthcare provider’s awareness of the information needed by law enforcement officials and prosecutors to identify and prosecute the perpetrator successfully.
This chapter provides a discussion of the legal aspects of the medical professional’s evaluation of suspected physical abuse and neglect. It addresses (a) mandatory reporting requirements for the healthcare professional, (b) medical record documentation in cases of suspected abuse and neglect, (c) guidelines for preparation and presentation of testimony, and (d) hearsay evidence.
KeywordsChild abuse Mandated reporting Barriers Documentation
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