The FAQs About Mandatory Reporting

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

What is mandatory or mandated reporting? You may have taken training required by your state—or you may not be certain about mandatory reporting and how it might apply to you in your role at a church or organization.

Regardless, if you work with children, youth or vulnerable adults, it is your responsibility to know how your organization handles the reporting of abuse. Anyone can and should report abuse, but it is also essential to understand your legal responsibilities.

Here are some frequently asked questions about mandatory reporting:

Who is a mandatory reporter?

A mandatory reporter is someone required by law to report abuse. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) requires each state to have provisions or procedures for requiring certain individuals to report known or suspected instances of child abuse and neglect. As of the last report, 47 states designated professions whose members are mandated by law to report child maltreatment.

What types of professionals are mandatory reporters?

In general, mandatory reporters include social workers; teachers, principals and other school personnel; physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers; counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals; childcare providers; and law enforcement officers. Some states also include professions such as photo processors; computer technicians; substance abuse counselors; directors, employees and volunteers at entities that provide organized activities for children, such as camps, day camps, youth centers, and recreation centers; and members of the clergy.

Are there states that require everyone to report?

In approximately 18 States and Puerto Rico, any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report.

What if I am not a mandatory reporter in my role? Can I still report?

Yes! In states where only certain professions are designed as mandatory reporters, any person is permitted to report. These voluntary reporters of maltreatment are often referred to as “permissive reporters.”

If I report, do I have to prove the abuse?

Mandatory reporters are required to report the facts and circumstances that led them to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected. They do not have the burden of providing proof that abuse or neglect has occurred. Permissive reporters follow the same standards when electing to make a report.

Can I report anonymously?

Most states maintain toll-free telephone numbers for receiving reports of abuse or neglect. Reports may be made anonymously to most of these reporting numbers, but states find it helpful to their investigations to know the identity of reporters. Overall, states vary in how they handle reporting, so it’s best to check with your state.

How do I get more information about what my state requires?

Check out this website: It has information from all 50 states and territories.

Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). Mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau