Search This Blog

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mandatory child abuse reporting laws for all?

The sex abuse scandal in the United States has led to calls for mandatory reporting laws that would apply to all adults. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that two pieces of legislation are being introduced in Washington to accomplish this. This seems a tempting solution particularly given that The New York Daily News is reporting that sexual abuse may have been connected with Penn State long before the current high profile scandal. This is the story that is being told by Paul McLuaghlin in respect of Professor John "Jack" Neisworth.

Yet, such laws may be the wrong way to go unless we are prepared for the almost inevitable outcome. Yes, it is an important message to all citizens that protecting children should be a full societal obligation. But:

1. Such an approach will overwhelm an already swamped child protection system. In this age of economic crisis, the funding needed for such an approach will just not be there.

2. It will make it hard to sort out priority cases. If this approach were adopted, the sheer number of vases will make it hard to determine which ones represent urgent needs. For children most in need of protection, this might actually reduce the possibility of getting protected.

3. When caseloads get too high, poorer casework is inevitable meaning that those families who are most going to benefit from quality supports won't get them. Recent research referred to in an earlier post notes that many of the best outcomes in child protection work are rooted in a good relationship between a worker and the family. This becomes less likely to occur in a scenario with widespread reporting laws.

4. Those best in a position to report are those who have professional relationships with children and will have the insight to see the risks.

5. Large scale mandatory reporting laws are also likely to lead to more children coming into care as workers lack time to do better quality investigations. It creates the "better safe than sorry" approach to investigation.

6. It also further opens the door to vindictive reporting by neighbours, estranged or angry family members or parents in custody access disputes.

Those who did witness the abuse already should have had a moral obligation to report the crime that they witnessed. One wonders if the laws proposed are going to change the motivation. I seriously worry that such an approach may end up doing more harm than good

No comments:

Post a Comment