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Child Abuse in Maryland and Mandated Reporting

In Maryland, hospitals and primary care providers play a significant role in the lives of families and their young patients. Because of the role of these medical professionals and their ability to spend time with family members in their most vulnerable moments, medical professionals may be the first line of defense against child abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, or child maltreatment. Maryland has put into place programs that not only define which professionals are mandated reporters of any type of child abuse, but also provide penalties to any professional who does not report when he or she has a legal obligation to do so. In Maryland, the mandated reporters are health practitioners, educators, human service workers, and police officers.

Mandated Reporters and Reporting Requirements

According to Maryland’s laws, if you are a mandated reporter, also known as health practitioners, educators, human service workers, and police officers, you are required to notify the Child Protective Services (CPS) or other appropriate law enforcement agency when there is a reason to believe that a child is being abused or neglected. There is no requirement that these mandated reporters must be certain that that abuse or neglect is occurring. The degree of certainty in these cases, especially for reporting, is a threshold of reasonable suspicion. For civil cases, the threshold for certainty is preponderance of evidence, while for criminal cases, the threshold is higher; there must be reasonable medical certainty or beyond reasonable doubt.

New Bill in Maryland Expanding Definitions and Requirements of Reporting Child Abuse

According to a recent Maryland bill in the Senate, Bill number 996, the definitions of child abuse and neglect have been redefined, as well as the requirements for reporting and investigation of any suspected child abuse or neglect. The bill redefines abuse in the following ways:

Amendments Suggested by the Bill to the Current Child Abuse Laws

First, it includes a list of those perpetrators who qualify as physically or mentally injuring a child. This list expands beyond any parent or household member, and includes other family members, any person who has permanent or temporary care or custody of the child, any person who supervises a child, or otherwise exercises authority over the child through the person’s position or occupation.

Second, it reviews what abuse means. For example, the law has included that accidental physical injury to a child does not constitute abuse for purposes of this law. It additionally requalifies the mental injury is any mental or psychological impairment that results from an intentional act or series of acts, even if the intent was not to harm the child.

Finally, the bill extended the list of perpetrators of sexual abuse to include those beyond just a parent, custodian, and family and household members, such people as any person who has permanent or temporary care or custody of the child, any person who supervises a child, or otherwise exercises authority over the child through the person’s position or occupation.

Broader Implications of this Bill Change

The broader implication of this amendment is to encourage greater reporting from not only mandated reporters, but also from any person who has reason to believe that a child is suffering from physical, mental, and sexual abuse. It also includes penalties for those who suspected physical, mental, and sexual abuse and did not report regardless of their obligation to the child. The only reporters who may be exempted are clergy and attorneys who may be protected under privilege laws.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

It is the responsibility of health care practitioners, among others, to report any reasonable belief that a child is suffering from abuse. If this practitioner does not report, and a child is injured as a result, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney about potential claims associated with failing to report and protect a vulnerable child. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.

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