Chapter

Exploring the Contested Role of Mandatory Reporting Laws in the Identification of Severe Child Abuse and Neglect

Ben Mathews

in Law and Childhood Studies

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199652501
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191739217 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199652501.003.0019

Series: Current Legal Issues

Exploring the Contested Role of Mandatory Reporting Laws in the Identification of Severe Child Abuse and Neglect

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Significant numbers of children are severely abused and neglected by parents and caregivers. Infants and very young children are the most vulnerable and are unable to seek help. Many of these children experience both initial harm and enduring effects, at substantial cost to the individual and society. These situations present complex normative and practical questions. Should measures be taken to identify these situations? If so, what measures should be adopted? Once cases are identified, what responses should be implemented? This chapter is primarily concerned with aspects of the second question, of what measures should be adopted to detect cases of severe child maltreatment. It discusses the apparent effect of mandatory reporting laws on ‘overreporting’ by referring to Australian government data about reporting patterns and outcomes, with a particular focus on New South Wales. It demonstrates that raw descriptive data about report numbers and outcomes appear to show that reporting laws produce both desirable consequences (identification of severe cases) and problematic consequences (increased numbers of unsubstantiated reports).

Keywords: child abuse; mandatory reporting laws; maltreatment; New South Wales

Chapter.  20083 words. 

Subjects: Family Law

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