There is growing concern right here in Michigan, and nationally, about unreported sexual abuse or neglect, specifically in children. In an effort to protect those victims, Michigan law will now make physical and occupational therapists and athletic trainers mandatory reporters of reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect.
Michigan’s Child Protection Law designates certain professionals as mandatory reporters if they are in a position to identify signs of abuse and understand how to report it. To be a mandatory reporter means you are required to immediately report any reasonable suspicions of child abuse or neglect to Centralized Intake at Children’s Protective Services (CPS) within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).
Who is a Mandatory Reporter in Michigan law?
These therapists and athletic trainers are the newest additions to a growing list of mandatory reporters in Michigan under our child protection laws. Some other mandatory reporters are nurses, social workers, school administrators, dentists, teachers, regulated child care providers, clergy members, physicians, and even certain MDHHS employees.
It is important to be aware of who is a mandatory reporter because it is required they report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect to CPS. Yes, that also applies if you talk to them outside of their job responsibilities. If you are a mandatory reporter because of your job, you are a mandatory reporter all of the time. This includes conversations with friends and in your own home. Mandatory reporters in Michigan are never “off the clock”.
There are two exceptions to mandatory reporting. One is a conversation between a lawyer and a client. Another is a confessional between someone clergy while they are acting in their professional role.
How Do I Report Abuse or Neglect of a Child to CPS?
If you are a mandatory reporter, your initial report of reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect must be made immediately and directly to Centralized Intake at Children’s Protective Services. While you may make this report by phone, you must follow up within 72 hours with a written report on a 3200 form. Mandatory reporters must additionally notify the head of their organization of the report.
When in Doubt, Report!
Knowing whether you are a mandatory reporter is important because failure to report can have repercussions.Failure of a mandatory reporter to report reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect can result in criminal and civil liablity. You could also possibly lose your professional license. What this means in a civil action is that you can owe for any suffering that is the result of not reporting. Criminally, you may be guilty of a misdemeanor that can result in imprisonment for up to 93 days or a $500 fine. Our CPS defense team has personally been involved in cases where mandatory reporters have been prosecuted for failing to report.
What if I Report and There was No Abuse or Neglect?
You need not be afraid to report reasonable suspicions of child abuse or neglect to CPS. As long as your report was made in “good faith”, there is immunity if it turns out there was no neglect or abuse present. Additionally, the names of reports are confidential.
Before you think about making a false report of child abuse or neglect, keep in mind that false reports made in “bad faith” can be subject to fines and imprisonment. The severity of punishment will depend on the allegations of the false report. Remember that Michigan’s Child Protection Law is meant to keep children safe and should not be used as a weapon to get back at anyone. All too often we hear of cases where reports to CPS were made frivolously, in bad faith or vindictively. That’s always a bad idea.
Remember: Anyone Can Report!
While there are many mandatory reporters based on professions, it is important to remember that anyone can report to CPS if they believe a child is being abused or neglected. You are not required to report if you are not a mandatory reporter, but voluntarily reporting potential child abuse or neglect helps to protect our children that often cannot help themselves. Just be sure that your report is made in good faith and not for some ulterior reason.
Charged with Falsely Reporting or Failure to Report in Michigan? Get Help!
Our team of CPS defense attorneys has decades of experience representing people involved with Children’s Protective Services in Michigan. We’ve been doing this work since the last century. Our team helps clients all over the lower peninsula. We can be reached 24 /7 for emergencies and crisis intervention by calling 800-576-6035.