In the United States and some other countries, there is a long list of professionals who are designated as mandated reporters. Essentially, anyone in charge of, or in contact with, an individual or group at risk of being abused, neglected, or otherwise mistreated, has a duty to report certain actions to the appropriate authorities. Examples of mandated reporters include schoolteachers, childcare workers, physicians, and nursing home employees, among many others. Even those who might not be direct caretakers, such as attorneys and paralegals, frequently have a duty to report, as do clergy members and others who work in their local communities. In many places, it is implied that everyone is a mandated reporter, while others have specific legal obligations and can be found criminally or civilly liable for failure to fulfill those responsibilities.
Vulnerable populations are subject to a range of different types of abuse. The mistreatment may be physical, verbal, emotional, sexual, or even financial. Some groups that are commonly affected by various forms of abuse include children, the elderly, and those who are, in some form, physically or mentally incapacitated. The abuse or neglect might be obvious; in many cases, however, it is difficult to detect or cleverly masked by an abuser.
The responsibilities of mandated reporters may differ by state or region. The duty to report may be implied, given the nature of one's profession. In most cases, however, the mandated reporter's responsibilities are clearly stated in his or her job description. Depending on one's profession, training is often provided regarding methods for detecting and reporting abuse, mistreatment, and neglect. In cases where abuse is suspected or confirmed, a formal written statement is usually submitted to the appropriate government agency or law enforcement officials.
Most people who work with children are assumed to be mandated reporters. Minor children don't have the capacity or legal standing to advocate for themselves, so they need mandated reporters to act on their behalf. Those who work in a school or childcare setting, including administrators, guidance counselors, nurses, social workers, and coaches, have a duty to report abuse. They are expected to look for physical signs of mistreatment, as well as non-physical evidence of neglect. Generally speaking, someone who suspects that a child is at risk of immediate harm must contact law enforcement right away.
Depending on their overall physical and mental health, many elderly people are in the same position as children. Often, they are cared for by other adults, who may take advantage of their vulnerabilities. Therefore, employees of senior citizen care facilities are an example of mandated reporters. In addition to the physical, emotional, or sexual abuse that seniors may endure, this group is also especially susceptible to financial abuse. Mandated reporters may have a difficult time proving this type of exploitation, however.
Mentally and physically incapacitated — and otherwise marginalized — individuals, regardless of their ages, are also vulnerable to the types of abuse previously mentioned. The failure to report abuse, neglect, or mistreatment can result in both civil and criminal penalties for mandated reporters. Some crimes are considered more serious than others, and individual states or territories generally decide the difference between misdemeanors and felonies. In the most serious cases, an intentional failure to report can mean jail time and fines for criminal acts, and payment of damages for civil suits.