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Insights Insights
| 1 minute read

One of the First Mandated Reporter States Reconsiders

Colorado was a early adopter of mandated reporter laws, and is now joining the push to reconsider those same laws. The head of the task force searching for solutions said that the group is “seeking to balance a need to report legitimate cases of abuse and neglect with a desire to weed out inappropriate reports.”

Motivating people to report actual cases of abuse without frightening them into over-reporting and clogging the system may be the goal, but there's no consensus how to reach it. According to state statistics, for example, Colorado has seen a 42% increase in reports in the past decade, but no increase in substantiations. More than ⅔ of the reports don't meet the threshold for investigation. Of those cases that the agency does investigate, only 21% are substantiated. In other words, only about 7% of reported cases are substantiated.

Advocates on each side either criticize or defend the current system:

“There’s a long, depressing history based on the approach that our primary response to a struggling family is reporting,” said Mical Raz, a physician and historian at the University of Rochester in New York. “There’s now a wealth of evidence that demonstrates that more reporting is not associated with better outcomes for children.”

On the other hand, some advocates oppose any changes:

“I’m concerned about adding systems such as the warmline, that kids who are in real danger are going to slip through the cracks and not be helped,” said Hollynd Hoskins, an attorney who represents victims of child abuse. Hoskins has sued professionals who fail to report their suspicions.

The specter of unreported abuse is a real one, but there's no way to assess whether the current system catches more instances of abuse than an alternate system would.  The only thing that is clear at the moment is that the mandated reporter laws are spending a lot of resources for less than 10% return.

In Colorado, the number of child abuse and neglect reports has increased 42% in the past decade and reached a record 117,762 last year, according to state data. . . . The actual number of substantiated cases has not risen over the past decade.


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