Child Abuse Reporting: Rethinking Child Protection

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The general public has been bewildered by the magnitude of sex abuse cases and the widespread failure by pillars of the community to notify appropriate authorities. The crime of sexually abusing children is punishable in all jurisdictions and this article examines the duty to report suspected cases by individuals in positions of trust over young people, such as in the church or university sports. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child maltreatment as an act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caregiver that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, and establishes minimum federal standards. Each state has its own definitions of maltreatment and every state identifies persons who are required to report child abuse. As such, state law is highly variable in defining who has a mandatory duty to report, and clergy and other individuals in close supervision of children (e.g., athletic coaches, scout leaders, volunteers in religious programs, and university officials) may necessarily hold such duty.

The article outlines why there are strong moral reasons the law should require all adults in close supervision of children to report any individual who they have good reason to believe has abused a child and moreover outlines how to ensure prompt reporting of abuse, while still ensuring that respected individuals are not falsely accused.