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Louisiana Audit Highlights Weaknesses in Mandated Reporter Statutes

A recent audit in Louisiana illustrates common flaws in mandated reporter schemes. As in most states, the state agency screened out the vast majority of mandated reports, indicating a lot of wasted agency energy. Between July 2017 and June 2023, nearly 250,000 reports were made, but only 37.4% of them were accepted for investigation.

Another problem is that the agency appears not to have the resources to handle the volume of calls. More than one-third of all calls to the hotline either received a busy signal or were abandoned before the agency could answer. Another statistic worth highlighting is that nearly two-thirds of the reports involved allegations of neglect. However, it's important to recognize the subjective nature of the definition of neglect. In many states, including Louisiana, there is often confusion between neglect and poverty. Mandated reporters, fearful of being second-guessed and charged for failure to report, report parents who are not neglecting their children, but simply having economic difficulties.

Child abuse is a serious problem, but there are growing questions about whether mandated reporter laws can actually accomplish what we want them to achieve.

The Legislative Auditor’s report showed nearly 250,000 reports of potential child abuse or neglect were filed with the DCFS Central Intake staff [from July 2017 through June 2023]. Out of that total, the agency accepted 93,415, or 37.4% for investigation. Nearly 65% involved allegations of neglect, 27% physical abuse and 6.7% sexual abuse. The remaining 1.6% of allegations covered maltreatment, near-fatal injuries, sex and labor trafficking, and Safe Haven cases in which a parent can give up custody of a newborn at a designated facility.


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