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Why is child abuse not always reported?

Professor Daniel PollackFrom sexual abuse to physical or emotional abuse as well as maltreatment and neglect, child abuse can have various forms. It occurs when a parent or a caregiver causes injury or death to a child because of his or her action or failing to act.

Very often child abuse is discovered and reported by people surrounding the child. Each State has laws requiring “Mandated Reporters” to report concerns of child abuse. In New York, some professionals such as doctors, nurses, social workers, emergency healthcare workers, dentists, medical examiners coroners and other medical professionals are mandated to report any suspicion of child abuse.  Therapists and mental health counselors  as well as anyone working in the education system as well as police officers and district attorneys and some people working with them such as investigators are mandated to report any suspicion of child abuse.

Sometimes however, mandated reporters hesitate to report suspicion of child abuse. In a recent article, Dr. Michaela A. Medved, MA, TSSLD, CCC-SLP, ClinScD, a Clinical Assistant Professor at Yeshiva University’s Katz School of Science and Health in New York City and Daniel Pollack, MSW, Esq., a professor at Yeshiva University’s School of Social Work in New York City  explains why some mandated reporters hesitate in reporting their suspicions. They found in a previous study that reporters are more reluctant to report their concerns when the abuse is mild or less apparent or experienced by children with disabilities.

One of the main reasons why a reporter might be reluctant in reporting a suspicion of child abuse is that such report can cause even more harm to a child and cause severe disruption for the child and the family. Removing a child from his family and submitting him or her to psychological interviews, physicals examinations and placing them with extended family or foster care can be disastrous for a child and a family if the suspicion of abuse turned out not to be true. Additionally it can be stigmatizing for the child and the family to have to explain to neighbors and friends why Child Protective Services is investigating them.

The entire article can be downloaded here