Under MCL 722.623 certain individuals and members of certain professions must make reports to the appropriate authorities if they have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or child neglect. This article talks about who is a mandatory reporter, what their duties are, what the reports must contain, who the reports are made to, what the reports must contain, and the timeframe for making them. I will also discuss the legal penalties for violating this law and the defense of lacking reasonable cause.
Who is a Mandatory Reporter
- Physician’s assistant
- Dental hygienist
- Medical examiner
- Anyone licensed to provide emergency medical care
- Marriage and family therapist
- Licensed professional counselor
- Social worker
- Licensed bachelor or master’s social worker
- Social service technician
- Any Friend of the court employee
- School administrator
- School teacher or counselor
- Law enforcement officer
- Regulated child care provider
Reporting Suspected Abuse or Neglect: Where, When, and How
A mandatory reporter must immediately orally report or cause an oral report to be made of the suspected abuse or neglect to the Department of Human Services. Within 72 hours of the oral report, the mandatory reporter must file a written report of the abuse or neglect. If the reporter is a member of hospital staff, school, or agency, the reporter must notify the person in charge of the hospital, school, or agency. Such notification does not relieve the person in charge of their respective reporting requirements. One report from a hospital, school, or agency is adequate to meet the reporting requirement.
Reporting of Alcohol or Controlled Substances in an Infant
If a mandatory reporter has reasonable cause to believe a newborn infant has any amount of alcohol, a controlled substance, or a metabolite of a controlled substance, the reporter is under the same obligation to report as suspected abuse or neglect.
Department of Human Services (DHS) Employees Reporting Requirements
Any of the following DHS employees must make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect to DHS in the same manner proscribed by law:
- Eligibility specialist
- Family independent manager
- Family independent specialist
- Social services specialist
- Social work specialist
- Welfare services specialist
What Must the Report Contain
The report must contain the name of the child, description of the abuse or neglect, and, if possible, names and addresses of the child’s parents, the child’s guardian, the person(s) with whom the child resides, and the child’s age. The report must contain other information available to the reporter that might establish the cause of the child abuse or neglect and the manner in which the abuse or neglect occurred. DHS must inform the reporter at the time of the making of the oral report of the requirements for the written report.
Who Gets the Reports
The written report must be mailed or otherwise transmitted to the DHS in the county that the child resides in. Upon written receipt of this report, DHS may provide copies to the prosecutor and the probate court in the county that the child resides in.
Does DHS Have to Send a Copy of the Report to Law Enforcement
DHS is required to send a copy of allegation, written report, or investigation to a law enforcement agency in the county that the child resides in under the following circumstances:
- If the allegation indicates child abuse as defined by MCL 750.136b
- If the allegation indicates child sexually abusive material as defined by MCL 750.145c
- If the allegation indicates any degree of criminal sexual conduct (CSC) or Assault with Intent to Commit Penetration
- If the allegation indicates manufacturing of a controlled substance or methamphetamine
- If the suspected abuse or neglect was committed by someone who is not responsible for the child’s heath or welfare (exs. clergy, teacher, teacher’s aide)
Immediate 24-Hour Reporting
If the allegation, report, or investigation indicates the suspected abuse or neglect was committed by a child care provider and DHS or law enforcement believes that report has basis in fact, then DHS or law enforcement must send a copy of the written report to the child care regulatory agency within 24 hours of completion. If the allegation, report, or investigation indicates the child is exposed to or having contact with methamphetamine production, then a copy of that report must be sent to the child care regulatory agency within 24 hours of completion.
What is Reasonable Cause
The key element in this statute is reasonable cause. The mandatory reporter’s obligation to report hinges upon reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect is occurring. It is somewhat subjective but the law does give some guidance. For example, the law states that if a child under 12 is pregnant or if a child between the ages of one and 12 has a venereal disease, that is reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect. Otherwise, the person who comes into knowledge of the suspected abuse or neglect has a judgment call to make. If the reporter fails to make a report because he did not believe he had reasonable cause, he better be prepared to defend that decision.
Penalties for Failing to Report Child Abuse or Neglect
If a person is a mandatory reporter and fails to report the suspected abuse or neglect or you do not report it in the time proscribed by law, that person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.
Mid Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with failing to report suspected child abuse or neglect and you are a mandatory reporter, call Austin Legal Services today to speak to a Michigan criminal defense lawyer at (517) 614-1983!
Defending charges of failing to report child abuse or neglect throughout Michigan in the counties of Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Jackson, Shiawassee, Livingston, Washtenaw, Kent, Barry and in the cities of Lansing, East Lansing, Mason, St. Johns, Charlotte, Jackson, Corunna, Brighton, Howell, Ann Arbor, Hastings, and Grand Rapids.