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State Lawmakers Review Mandatory Reporting Laws

by | Jan 24, 2012 11:59pm () Comments | Commenting has expired | Share
Posted to: Legal, State Capitol

In the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, Connecticut officials found themselves Tuesday discussing making coaches at all levels mandatory reporters of abuse.

In Pennsylvania assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was recently charged with sexually assaulting several boys. The late-Joe Paterno, the school’s head coach, was fired for not reporting Sandusky.

In Connecticut only public school coaches are required to report abuse to the Department of Children and Families. Coaches at the university level and coaches of youth sports, outside the school setting, are not covered by Connecticut’s law.

But Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz warned a lawmakers Tuesday that broadening the definition of a mandated reporter could have implications for her agency.

Katz told lawmakers that the state needs to balance making mandatory reporting laws “consistent with the people who are responsible for working with children,” without passing a law that is unnecessarily broad.

According to Katz, DCF received 95,000 calls to its child abuse hotline last year. Of those calls, half precipitated an investigation, and half of the investigations – about 23,750 instances – resulted in legal action.

In addition, 30 percent of all the tips made last year were made by people who were not mandatory reporters.

Sen. Len Suzio, R - Meriden, said he was “totally stunned” by the volume of calls handled by DCF annually.

“The sheer volume in a state of our size just shocks me,” Suzio said.

“We’re a 24 - 7 operation and we’re short staffed like everyone else. We’re doing the best we can,” Katz said.

Rep. Al Adinolfi, R-Cheshire, said that the penalty for offenders should be reevaluated for both minors and adults who abuse children.

He related a story about a 16 year old in his district who allegedly pulled down the pants of a six year old boy.

“The 16 year old is getting a slap on the hand and some counseling,” Adinolfi said. “Maybe we should reevaluate the penalty.”

Mandatory reporters who ignore or otherwise fail to report instances of child abuse face a fine of up to $2,500.

Sen. Terry Gerratana, D -New Britain,  said that she was pleased that the hearing came before the start of legislative session.

“It’s time to consider what these experts have to say then go forward with legislation from there,” Gerratana said.

Lawmakers raised questions about the process for reporting instances of child abuse and whether the law can be changed to make it easier and more encouraging for potential reporters.

Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, asked if mandatory reporters at the university level would be required to report to school officials or to DCF directly.

“I would expect them to follow the same practices and protocols as all other mandatory reporters,” Katz said.

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(2) Archived Comments

posted by: nccpr | January 25, 2012  8:31am

Requiring anyone and everyone to report anything and everything only guarantees that *more* children will be hurt.  Most cases are far more ambiguous than a man allegedly caught in the act of raping a child in the shower – as is alleged at Penn State.  Nationwide, even now, more than three-quarters of all reports alleging child abuse are false.  Further expanding mandatory reporting means child abuse hotlines will be deluged with even more false reports, further overloading workers who then will have less time to find children in real danger.

And tens of thousands of children who were never abused will be traumatized by the investigation itself – which often includes a stripsearch looking for bruises.  The medical exam required in cases of sexual abuse is even more traumatic.

To see the result of taking away all discretion and common sense, consider a recent case from Florida in which a mandated reporter called in a report – and sheriff’s deputies launched an investigation - when a schoolyard crush led a 12-year-old girl to kiss a 12-year-old boy.

There are 18 states that already require everyone to report and there is no evidence children are any safer in those states.  As is so often the case with our efforts to fight child abuse, more mandatory reporting is a “solution” that has nothing to do with actually helping children and everything to do with making the adults feel better about a heinous crime.  There is much more about this in our briefing paper on mandatory reporting, on our website, which can be found with a Google search.

Richard Wexler
Executive Director
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

posted by: OutOfOutrage | January 25, 2012  11:53am

OutOfOutrage

Correction: Joe Paterno was not fired for failing to report Sandusky. He reported the information he had to Tim Curley the AD (as he was required to do) Curley then reported it to Schultz the head of campus police.  He did exactly what he was supposed to do.  He was fired for not doing more.

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