The OCA has recently been asked about the responsibility of health care professionals, who are also mandated reporters, to file a 51A report with DCF when they learn of consensual sexual activity between minors. For example, school nurses and physicians in the community learn that youth under sixteen are engaged in sexual relations when they request health counseling on topics such as contraception. Some personnel from the law enforcement community believe that nurses and doctors must then report these sexual relations to DCF as child abuse, and they teach this course of action in trainings they conduct on mandated reporting. DCF, for its part, will screen out any report that does not involve a caretaker, but will send a copy of the report to law enforcement. This view of the reporting requirements acts to keep law enforcement informed of the sexual activities of minors under sixteen through an indirect route, enabling them to determine whether law enforcement should investigate the matter further.
The Child Advocate, most members of the child welfare community and many from law enforcement take a different view of the reporting requirement. Any sexual relations between a caretaker and a minor must always be reported to DCF as child abuse. If a mandated reporter is concerned that a non-caregiver adult, or other minor child, has been involved in a coercive sexual relationship with a minor child, the situation should be reported to the police for investigation and appropriate action. However, requiring that mandated reporters file a 51A report of abuse or neglect automatically in every instance of a 15-year-old looking for contraception would discourage minors from seeking health care and is an unnecessary invasion of their privacy.
The OCA's position regarding mandatory reporting of consensual sex between minors is published in the OCA's 2009 Annual Report. The Child Advocate endorses the view that minors must be able to seek health counseling about sexual relations without fearing that a 51A report will be filed automatically. We reiterate that if anything about the circumstances triggers concern from the health professional or other mandated reporter, she must evaluate the facts and us e her best judgment to decide whether to file a report with DCF or law enforcement. Difficult issues such as this, on which reasonable people can disagree, illustrate the need for a consistent approach and standardized curriculum for mandated reporter training.