C. Henry Kempe: A 50 Year Legacy to the Field of Child Abuse and Neglect

Volume 1 of the series Child Maltreatment pp 103-118


Mandated Reporting Laws and Child Maltreatment: The Evolution of a Flawed Policy Response

  • Natalie K. WorleyAffiliated withInstitute on Family and Neighborhood Life, Clemson University Email author 
  • , Gary B. MeltonAffiliated withKempe Center for Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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Although the “discovery” of the battered children syndrome 50 years ago has had a reverberating impact on child protection in the United States and internationally, the resulting system of mandated reporting and an increased awareness of the prevalence of child maltreatment continue to fall far short of fulfilling intentions to protect society’s most vulnerable children. Legal mandates to report suspected abuse are undermined by ambiguities in definition and inconsistencies across jurisdictions, mired in errors of both under- and overreporting, and lead to a loss of community and professional responsibility in the duty of child protection. After a 50-year struggle with a system that is known to have been ill-conceived, it is well past time to move in a new direction—toward repeal of mandated reporting and toward adoption of community-strengthening approaches that result in improved welfare for children in general and a stronger commitment to ensuring children’s safety.