By Ramona du Houx
A law that would reduce barriers to reporting suspected child abuse was enacted in the Maine State Senate on May 27, 2015.
The measure, LD 199, “An Act to Improve the Reporting of Child Abuse,” amends the state’s current law for mandated reporters who are required to report cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. There are more than 32 categories of mandatory reporters including clergy, bus drivers, school officials, doctors, camp counselors, and law enforcement.
“Child abuse has serious short- and long-term consequences. The sooner we intervene in child abuse cases, the more likely a child will experience less long-term consequences,” said Democratic State Senator Bill Diamond of Windham, the bill’s sponsor.
In 2013, over 19,000 reports of suspected child abuse were made to Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child and Family Services.
Current law states that a mandated reporter may “cause someone else” such as a supervisor to make the report. The bill, amended in committee, requires a mandated reporter working in an institution, facility or agency to acknowledge in writing that s/he has received confirmation that the report has been made by the institution, facility or agency to the department. If the mandated reporter does not receive that confirmation within 24 hours of notifying the institution, facility or agency, then the mandated reporter is required to report directly to the Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, the amendment prohibits an employer from taking any action to prevent or discourage an employee from making a report.
“We know that these reports of abuse are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to child abuse. And, we need to decrease barriers to the intervention of child abuse,” added Sen. Diamond. “We know from the Penn State-Jerry Sandusky case that too often reports of abuse get lost up the chain. We can make no more excuses for reports of abuse that go unreported or investigated.”
To date, the measure has received bipartisan support garnering a unanimous report from the state’s Judiciary Committee and unanimous passage “under the hammer” in both the House and Senate.
The law now goes to Governor Paul LePage for his signature.