Federal law requires every state to designate individuals who must report known or suspected child abuse. 

The Child Welfare Information Gateway explains that in most states, members of specific professions must report child abuse. 

Which professions have reporting duties?

You are more likely to have ongoing contact with children in certain professions. In most states, individuals who work with children are mandatory reporters: 

  • Principals, teachers and other school workers 
  • Child care providers 
  • Doctors, nurses and others who provide health care services 
  • Mental health professionals and social workers 
  • Law enforcement personnel 

Depending on the state, mandatory reporters may also include clergy members, camp counselors and university and college staff. In a handful of states, even computer technicians and commercial photo processors may have reporting responsibilities. 

If you are a mandatory reporter, your employer may have rules for processing reports. However, following these rules does not necessarily release you from your legal obligation to file a report with authorities. Several states have laws that protect you from retaliation by an employer if you file a report. 

Some states require reporting by any person who suspects child abuse. 

Must mandatory reporters meet certain standards?

Reporting standards vary among states. If you are a mandatory reporter, you must generally must make a report when you suspect or have reason to believe a child suffers from abuse. In many states, reporters must report when they know of or observe a child in conditions that would reasonably harm the child. 

Mandatory reporters do not bear the burden of proving abuse. 

Is the identity of mandatory reporters confidential?

Disclosure rules also vary among states. Most states have toll-free phone numbers for reporting. Several states compel mandatory reporters to identify themselves and provide contact information. Most states protect reporters from having their identities disclosed to the alleged offenders. 

Mandatory reporting laws also apply to child neglect.