Under Connecticut statutes all social workers are mandated reporters of suspected abuse and neglect of children. As of October 1, 2013, the child reporting statutes have been revised, with the changes noted in this article in bold print.
Child Abuse and Neglect:
This law applies to all children under the age of eighteen years.
Any social worker that during the ordinary course of such person’s employment or profession has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused, neglected, has had a non-accidental physical injury or injury at variance with the explanation for it, or is at imminent risk of harm, must report that information to the Department of Children and Families. The previous law was narrower in that it required reporting by mandated reporters in their “professional capacity” but did not mention employment whereas now mandated reporters are required both through their employment and as a member of the profession. The DCF website reads that you are a mandated reporter “in the ordinary course of their employment or profession”, which we interpret as meaning anytime you are engaged in an activity related to your professional role as a social worker. We believe “social worker” includes both those employed as a social worker who has a social work degree and those who hold the employment title of social worker without the social work degree.
The relationship of the suspected perpetrator to the child does not matter. Anyone who is suspected of abuse or neglect or placing a child in imminent risk is to be reported. Under the old law only persons responsible for the child’s health, welfare, or care or a person given access to the child by the responsible person had to be reported.
As soon as practicable, but not later than 12 hours after forming a reasonable belief of abuse, neglect, or imminent risk of serious harm the mandated reporter must make an oral report to DCF or local police. To report to DCF call the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-842-2288. The old law required reporting within 24 hours.
In cases where a staff or faculty member is alleged to have abused or neglected a child in the institution’s care DCF must notify the head of the public or private institution except if the head of the institution is the alleged perpetrator. The old law required that the mandated reporter make this notification.
The penalty for failure to report is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for up to one year, a fine of up to $2,000, or both, and a requirement that the mandated reporter attend a class on mandated reporting to be funded through participant fees. Previously the fine was between $500 and $2,500 only. Anyone found to have intentionally and unreasonably interfere with or prevented a person who is a mandated reporter from carrying out the duty to report will be considered to have made risk of injury to a child, a Class D felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine up to $5,000 or both. In addition, a school social worker that is found guilty of not reporting as required will be reported to the Commissioner of Education and may have their certification revoked.
The issue of a sexual relationship involving a minor has been a controversial issue as to when it is reportable. DCF has taken the position that a mandated reporter is obligated to report any sexual relations involving a minor under the age of 13 and sexual relations between a minor under the age of 16 and a person over the age of 21 years regardless of whether there are any other facts known to the mandated reporter. On the other hand a mandated reporter need not automatically report consensual sexual relations between two minors who are 13 years of age or older and who are within 2 years of age of each other unless the reporter has other facts to provide reasonable cause to suspect that child abuse or neglect has occurred (emphasis added). NASW/CT supports the interpretation of DCF regarding such circumstances and the Attorney General’s office too considers DCF’s interpretation to be a reasonable one. It must be noted here however that the state’s attorneys and Chief State’s Attorney have taken a differing view, believing that even consensual sex where there does not appear to be abuse involved is reportable despite the fact that such reporting would have a chilling effect on minors seeking health care services. It is anticipated that legislative action to clarify the intent of the law will be required and if so NASW/CT will support DCF’s interpretation.
For information on the state’s other mandated reporting laws and other state statutes that affect social work practice in Connecticut go to www.naswct.org and click on Professional Issues.
This fact sheet is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice.
Updated October 2, 2013