Yes, they are. One of my least favorite duties as a foster parent is to operate in the capacity of a mandated reporter. A mandated reporter must report suspected abuse or neglect of a minor to the proper authorities. A mandated reporter may be a medical professional, teacher, coach, clergy, behavioral health professional, or child welfare professional, including foster parents. It may feel uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Here’s how you do it:
See something, say something
Hypothetical situation: you are a foster parent and see a bruise on your foster child after he or she returns from a family visit. You are obligated to report it. Or a foster child tells you of a time when he or she was abused by a neighbor in the past. You are obligated to report it. Even if your suspicions do not involve a foster child, you are still obligated to report suspicions of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment, whether it is at the grocery store, at the city park, or even at church. You may not be absolutely sure that the situation is child abuse. However, the professionals on the other end of the line will determine that. By reporting your suspicions, you may save the life of a child. By deciding not to report, you may be in violation of the law. Check your state’s child welfare or child protective services website to obtain a toll-free number.
Once you decide to make the call, the operator will need information. You will need the location, date, and time of the alleged incident or where the interview took pace. You will need the name, address, and date of birth of the child. You will have to describe the alleged incident, situation, or injury. You will have to retell the story in detail, using the child’s exact words.
If you are too close to the situation or fear for your safety, you may file a report anonymously. You may also give your name, but ask that it not be entered into the record. You may be asked to testify later, if the accusations go to court. The alleged perpetrator may figure out who made the allegations, but do not let that deter you. Many children have been saved because of caring adults who reported what they saw or heard.
Lastly, please know that in most states, there is a penalty for reporting false allegations of abuse. If you knowingly falsify a report, there could be fines or even jail time. But other than that, if you are a licensed foster parent in your state, then you are also a mandated reporter. Please take your responsibility seriously. A child’s life may be at stake.
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journey. He and his wife started their adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children: 6 of which are adopted. His adoption children are all different ethnicities including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family, especially to the East Coast and to the West Coast and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek, and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.