For this discussion, I chose the state of Maryland as a state of interest. Maryland defines child abuse as “the physical or mental injury of a child under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed by any of the following: a parent; a household member or family member; a person who has permanent or temporary care or custody of the child; a person who has responsibility for supervision of the child; a person who, because of the person’s position or occupation, exercises authority over the child” and “sexual abuse of a child, whether physical injuries are sustained or not” as outlined in Citation: Fam. Law § 5-701 (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d.).
A mandated reporter, in the statues of Maryland, is someone who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to abuse or neglect. The mandated reporters are “health practitioners, educators or human service workers, and police officers” as highlighted in Citation: Fam. Law § 5-704. According to Citation: Fam. Law §§ 5-704; 5-705, “a mandatory reporter is required to report when, acting in a professional capacity, the person has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect” (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d.). Any other persons are required to report when they have reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect (Kalichman et al., 1994).
There are no parties exempted from reporting. Mandated reporters who intentionally prevent or interfere with the reporting, or fail to report, suspected abuse or neglect of a child are “guilty of a misdemeanor and, on conviction” and are “subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both” as spelled out in Citation: Fam. Law §§ 5-705.2; 5-705.4 (Paulsen et al., 1965). Where the agency conducting an investigation finds substantial grounds to believe that an individual has intentionally failed to report suspected abuse or neglect, the agency is mandated to choose from the following options: “file a complaint with the appropriate licensing board in accordance with the provisions of the Health Occupations Article if the person is a health practitioner; file a complaint with the appropriate law enforcement agency if the person is a police officer; or file a complaint with the county board of education or the appropriate agency, institution, or licensed facility at which the person is employed if the person is an educator or a human service worker” as laid down in Citation: Fam. Law §§ 5-705.2; 5-705.4 (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d.).
Child witnesses to domestic violence are not addressed in the Maryland statutes. I do not think that there exists any credible or good reason for a professional and for anyone not to report child abuse. Professionals have been trained on how to read situations to determine whether a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect. It is their moral and legal duty to report suspected child abuse since it is better to exercise caution than provide help and care to a child that is a victim of continuous abuse. The statutes on the appropriate action to be taken against professionals who do not report child abuse are effective in addressing such action. It is the responsibility of all members of society to protect children from abuse.