What is the difference between a Permissive Reporter and a Mandated Reporter?

While it may seem like a big deal, and it is important to know what category you fall into, it is fairly simple to determine if you are mandatory or permissive reported in PA.  A mandatory reporter is one who is obligated by law to always report suspected instances of child abuse or neglect. These individuals are those who are earth around children on a regular basis as part of their normal work- doctors, teachers, bus drivers, tutors, counselors, etc; or they are seen as members of the community who hold roles that would make them obligated to protect children- police, fire fighters, government officials, etc. The average person on the street or a next door neighbor that does not fall into the mandatory reporter category is considered to be a permissive reporter.

Duties of a Mandated Reporter in PA

Mandated reporters are obligated to make a report of suspected abuse with a reasonable cause if they believe a child is a victim of child abuse within the following circumstances, according to the PA Family Support Alliance:

  • They have contact with the child as part of work or through a regularly scheduled program activity or service OR
  • They are responsible for the child or work for an agency that is directly responsible for the child OR
  • Someone makes a specific disclosure to the mandated reporter and the child is identifiable OR
  • A person 14 years old or older makes a disclosure that he/she has committee child abuse.

It is important to note that mandated reporters must not try to determine if abuse has occurred or not. They are not investigators and should not ask questions about what happened, who did it, and so forth any more than what is needed to file the report. It is to be left to the investigation committee to determine whether or not abuse occurred and to what extent it occurred.  

What Does a Permissive Reporter Do?

If you are not a mandatory reporter, then you are generally seen in a legal sense as a permissive reporter. Most state laws encourage individuals who are permissive reporters to make a report when they have reason to believe that abuse, abandonment, neglect, or other harm has been done to a child. These permissive reporters can still be a literal life saver to a child and while most reports of abuse or neglect are done by mandatory reporters this is simply because they have the most exposure to children on a regular basis. But an average citizen who sees or hears something that is concerning to them can still file a report and is encouraged to do so in the state of Pennsylvania!

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