In your first session with your mental health provider and in their paperwork, they will tell you they are mandated reporters by law. What does that mean? Mental health practitioners in the US and Canada are legally and ethically mandated to report to the proper authorities (the child abuse hotline and/or the vulnerable adult abuse hotline) if there is a report of child abuse and neglect or elderly and/or vulnerable adult abuse and neglect. This legal obligation makes us “mandated reporters.”
Reporting of child and/or vulnerable adult abuse and neglect is one of the few times mental health practitioners must legally and ethically break confidentiality, even if it means reporting this information without the parent’s, family members’ permission. Providers may try to include the parent or guardian in the call by calling the child protective services hotline together. If the mental health practitioner decides that it will not be beneficial to report it together, they will have to break confidentiality and report it on their own.
Abuse and neglect of a child can be:
Please note the definition and scope of abuse may vary between states in the US and provinces and territories in Canada.
Here is a general breakdown of what happens (in the US) after a call to the child abuse hotline is made with a report of suspected abuse and/or neglect:
(Please note: this is not a guaranteed step by step approach by your state. You must verify with the caseworker assigned to your case – see step 2).
Again, please note the step by step process may vary by each state in the US. For Canada, it may vary based upon each province or territory.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent in your state, you need to go through a specific process. The Muslim Foster Care Association has more information about being a foster parent.
Please also know that, technically, anyone, including you, can report child abuse and neglect you have witnessed or are aware of. If you are not considered a mandated reporter by law, you can choose to be anonymous in your report.
For Canada, the process is similar when reporting: a Children’s Aid Society caseworker will assess the situation to determine if further investigation is needed. Based on the findings, the CAS caseworker will put forward a plan to help keep the child safe.
You can find out more about Canada’s legal requirements for mandated reporting here
Remember: mental health practitioners in the USA are mandated reporters: they are legally required to report any suspected case of abuse and/or neglect. In Canada, each province and territory have different expectations and rules about how to handle reports of child abuse and/or neglect. Failure to do so can result in loss of license and potentially other legal charges, which is why your mental health providers must report.
Adult Protective Services (APS) get involved when the vulnerable adult is the subject of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. (Please note, your state may have a different name for its equivalent agency to APS)
A vulnerable adult is defined as someone who is:
The vulnerable adult needs to be residing in either of the two:
Abuse of a vulnerable adult can be:
Please note, you must contact your local APS as the definition and scope of abuse may vary between states.
In both the USA and Canada, the process of reporting abuse and/or neglect to the hotline for reporting abuse of adults is similar to the one for children (see above). The caseworker from the Adult Protective Services (or Community Services Worker in Canada) determines with the adult’s other healthcare providers which services would be beneficial. Law enforcement may be involved depending upon the circumstances.
There are certain limitations as to what the APS caseworker can do. An example of one limitation is that the APS caseworker cannot force an adult with capacity to accept services. There are other limitations, but it is best to contact your local APS and speak with the caseworker assigned to the case to understand more about the process.
Check out the website for the National Adult Protective Services (for USA) to find out more information about the legal protection for vulnerable adults.
You can read more about reporting of vulnerable adult abuse in Canada here
Remember: mental health practitioners in the USA are mandated reporters: they are legally required to report any suspected case of abuse and/or neglect. In Canada, each province and territory have different expectations and rules about how to handle reports of elder abuse. Failure to do so can result in loss of license and potentially other legal charges, which is why your mental health providers must report.