A mandated reporter is a person required by law to report suspected or known cases of child abuse or neglect. Typically, mandated reporters have contact with children through their employment (like teachers or social workers). Reporters are legally obligated to report instances of abuse to child welfare or local law enforcement.
The South Carolina Department of Social Services lists the following professionals as mandated reporters:
- “Healthcare professionals: physicians, nurses, dentists, optometrists, medical examiners or coroners or their employees, emergency medical services, mental health or allied health professionals
- Educational professionals: teachers, counselors, principals, school attendance officers
- Social or public assistance professionals: substance abuse treatment staff, childcare workers, foster parents
- Legal professionals: police or law enforcement officers, juvenile justice workers, volunteer non-attorney guardians ad litem serving on behalf of the South Carolina Guardian ad Litem program or on behalf of Richland County CASA, judges
- Undertakers, funeral home directors, or their employees
- Film processors
- Computer technicians
- Clergy, including Christian Science Practitioners or religious healers (subject to laws governing privileged communication)”
Under the law, anyone who works in one of these professions must report potential abuse or neglect, though the DSS says the law encourages anyone who suspects abuse to report it.
I think a child has been sexually abused; what do I do?
If you believe a child has been a victim of sexual abuse, child abuse, or neglect, you should contact the DSS or a local law enforcement official. If you believe the perpetrator is a family member, guardian, or other person in charge of the welfare of the child, you can report to either agency. If you believe the perpetrator is a stranger, you should report your suspicions to the police.
Understand that unless you work for DSS or law enforcement, “telling your boss” is not an acceptable form of reporting. You have to report to one of the two agencies.
What happens if I am wrong about the child?
Mandated reporters do not need conclusive proof that abuse has occurred; they are immune to liability. In other words, if you made a mistake, you cannot be sued. If, however, you file a fraudulent report, then you could be charged with filing a false report, and you could be sued in civil court.
What happens if I don’t report?
If you are a mandated reporter and you do not report suspected abuse, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. The penalties include up to $500 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail.
Mandated reporters are one of the many tools we have to help protect children. At McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC, we have dedicated our lives to protecting the injured and the vulnerable. If you or your loved one has been sexually abused or assaulted, we want to help you. Please call 803-327-7800 or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation at one of our offices throughout South Carolina. Your case will be handled with the dignity and discretion it deserves, and we ensure that you will work with an attorney with whom you feel safe, secure, and confident.