What is a mandated reporter?
Mandated Reporters are persons who, as a result of their profession, are more likely to be aware of abuse or neglect of persons with disabilities. Mandated Reporters are required by law to report cases of suspected abuse to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission (DPPC) when they have a suspicion that a person with a disability is suffering from a reportable condition of abuse or neglect. Other persons who are not mandated to report may choose to file reports of suspected abuse.
Who are mandated to report?
- person employed by a state agency within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services including but not limited to employees of the
- Department of Developmental Services
- Department of Mental Health
- Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
- person employed by a private agency providing services to persons with disabilities
- medical intern
- hospital personnel engaged in the examination, care or treatment of persons
- medical examiner
- public or private school teacher
- educational administrator
- guidance or family counselor
- day care worker
- probation officer
- social worker
- foster parent
- police officer
What is reportable?
The standard for reporting suspected abuse and neglect is "reasonable cause to believe" which means that mandated reporters need only a " mere suspicion" that abuse or neglect was committed against a person with a disability. If abuse or neglect is suspected, trust your feeling and report to DPPC's 24 - hour Hotline at 1-800-426-9009 or 1-888-822-0350 TTY. It is better to err on the side of action.
In addition to reporting suspected abuse and neglect, mandated reporters are also required to report to DPPC all cases in which an individual with a disability has died, regardless of whether or not abuse or neglect is suspected.
What makes reporting difficult for persons with disabilities who are victims of abuse and/or neglect?
- Victims may be sharing very private, personal information.
- Victims may have intense feelings of fear, possible rejection, shame, and guilt.
- Victims may be afraid to test the level of your caring and support. What if they tell you what happened, and you do nothing?
- Victims may be afraid of being blamed for the incident.
- Victims may be fearful of violating the caregiver/abuser's orders.
- Victims may be afraid of threats of further harm to themselves or loved ones.
- Victims may be dependent on the caregiver/abuser for assistance.
- Victims may be fearful of being left without a home, or family.
- Victims may be afraid of getting the caregiver/abuser in trouble.
- Victims may be unable to explain what happened because of the nature of their disability.
What makes reporting difficult for caregivers?
Taking the step to actually file a report can be difficult for many reasons:
- Caregivers may be shocked, angered or embarrassed by what they hear or see.
- Caregivers may be hearing information that is very contrary to their own personal standards.
- Caregivers may be unclear of their responsibility to report or what constitutes abuse or neglect.
- Caregivers may be fearful that they will be brought into a legal matter where their reputation and character may be questioned.
- Caregivers may not want to become involved.
- Caregivers may be fearful of retaliation from the caregiver/alleged abuser or their agency.
- The Caregiver/alleged abuser may be a friend and co-worker.
- Caregivers may be afraid that reporting will make the situation worse.
- Caregivers may be fearful of alienating the caregiver/abuser and having needed services refused.
- Caregivers may be reluctant to break the "Code of Silence" among employees.
Although it might be difficult, a mandated reporter must, by law, report suspected abuse or neglect committed against a person with a disability to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission at 1-800-426-9009 or 1-888-822-0350 TTY.
Protection for mandated reporters who report abuse
Mandated Reporters are immune from civil or criminal liability as a result of filing a report of abuse committed against a person with a disability. Non-mandated reporters are also protected providing the report was made in good faith. If a Mandated Reporter is retaliated against by their employer for filing an alleged report of abuse, or by participating in the DPPC investigation, DPPC will conduct an investigation into the retaliation.
Consequences for not reporting crime, abuse and neglect committed against persons with disabilities
In Massachusetts, Mandated Reporters can be fined up to $1,000 for failure to report incidences of suspected abuse and neglect of children, elders, and individuals with disabilities.
The failure to report crimes and incidences of suspected abuse and neglect committed against persons with disabilities can result in severe consequences for the alleged victim, other potential victims, and the Mandated Reporter. Victims of abuse and neglect are at increased risk of further abuse, if it goes unreported. The frequency and severity of abuse and neglect are likely to increase over time if no intervention is made. A failure to intervene by not reporting will likely result in other individuals being abused and neglected.