Reporting suspected abuse or neglect can feel daunting. It requires extraordinary courage to speak up when you believe that someone vulnerable is suffering harm.
Most people in Oregon are not required to report abuse, even if they have strong evidence of its presence. However, Oregon does require people in certain professions to report any reasonable suspicions of abuse or neglect. These people are called mandated reporters.
What is mandated reporting? Who is a mandated reporter?
A mandated reporter is anyone required by the state to report suspected abuse or neglect, whether this abuse is physical, psychological, sexual or financial. Every state in the U.S. has slightly different laws regarding mandatory reporting. Mandatory reporting extends only to members of vulnerable populations. These populations include:
- Children under the age of 18
- An 18, 19 or 20-year-old who receives services from a child-caring agency
- Elderly persons
- Persons with mental illnesses
- People with intellectual or physical disabilities
- Residents of nursing homes or care facilities
In Oregon, the professions that must report abuse or neglect include:
- Medical professionals including doctors and nurses
- Licensed psychologists, therapists, counselors and social workers
- Clergy members
- Foster parents
- Police officers and firefighters
- Child care providers
- Employees of public and private schools, including teachers, aides and administrative staff
- Any member of the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS)
Every person in these professions has an obligation to report suspected abuse or neglect, even if they did not discover the abuse in the course of their job. If a school administrator, for example, notices child abuse when she is not at her job, then she must still report this suspected abuse to the DHS.
Reporting is crucial to protect vulnerable people
Every Oregonian, even those who are not mandated reporters, has a moral and ethical obligation to report alleged abuse. Even if you are not in a profession that mandates reporting, you can use your voice to protect vulnerable Oregonians. If you have reasonable cause to suspect abuse or neglect, you should:
- Document suspicious incidents. If you encounter an instance that seems suspicious but does not meet the standard of reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect, write a detailed report of this incident.
- Gather as much evidence as possible. This could include photographs, written reports, eyewitness testimony, and your previous documentation.
- Get in touch with the Oregon DHS immediately to report your suspicions.
It can feel terrifying to come forward with allegations of abuse, but this brave action is crucial to protect the wellbeing of our state’s vulnerable people.