Q&A: Kathryn S. Krase on Mandated Reporting for Youth-Serving Organizations
Recent allegations of child sexual abuse in a youth-serving organization founded by a coach at Pennsylvania State University highlight the confusion that often surrounds state "mandated reporter" laws. These laws require certain professionals to report instances of suspected abuse. To tease out what youth-serving organizations need to do – both legally and ethically – to protect the young people they work with, NCFY spoke with Kathryn S. Krase, who teaches social work at Ramapo College of New Jersey and co-wrote “Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect: A Practical Guide for Social Workers” (Springer, 2008).
NCFY: What should youth workers do above and beyond mandated reporter requirements?
Krase: It starts with making a proper report to authorities, child protective services in your state. In the Penn State scandal, concerned people made contact with supervisors but no contact with authorities. All people, whether they are concerned citizens or mandated reporters, can call the child protective services hotline in their state to get help and ask questions. It shouldn’t be a scary process. Regular law enforcement is also an option to make reports.
NCFY: What part do ethics play in mandated reporting, and is there a difference between ethics and mandated reporting?
Krase: Social workers have an ethical guideline that includes an obligation to protect client confidence. But as it relates to child abuse, professional social workers are able to breach client confidentiality if legally mandated to do so.
NCFY: How can youth-serving organizations protect themselves and help staff make the right decisions while also protecting youth?
Krase: In working with clients, we need to make sure that they understand that we are mandated reporters and what that means. Through a process of informed consent, we need to ensure that they are aware that we want to help the client – but my responsibilities are to report any information that you provide me about abuse. By providing a process of informed consent with clients you are protecting the agency. By having verbal instruction during intake and written communication in multiple languages at an accessible reading level for clients you protect your agency. Most importantly, documentation and record keeping is key. When reporting abuse and neglect, be sure to have multiple levels of documentation: Names, numbers, dates should be kept in multiple places not just in the client’s file.