The Abuse of Children law, RCW 26.44.030(f), states that “administrative and academic or athletic department personnel, including student employees” are mandated to report suspected child abuse or neglect to law enforcement or the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). I’m not sure that I fall into one of those employment categories. Am I really required to report?
Yes. Under University of Washington Administrative Policy Statement 11.8: Reporting Suspected Child Abuse, all University employees are required to report directly to law enforcement or DSHS. The University created APS 11.8 to achieve several goals. These include implementing the amendment to Abuse of Children Law and a companion law, RCW 28B.10.846, informing University employees of their reporting responsibilities, and most effectively furthering the University’s commitment to creating policies that promote a safe community.
I am a volunteer for the University. Am I also required to report suspected child abuse or neglect?
Yes, under Administrative Policy Statement 11.8, volunteers must report suspected child abuse or neglect in the same manner as University employees. Be aware that an individual may also fall into other categories of mandated reporters under the Abuse of Children Law, such as licensed healthcare professionals.
I am a student. Do I need to report suspected child abuse or neglect?
If you are a University student employee or volunteer, you must make a report under Administrative Policy Statement 11.8. Students who are not a University employee or volunteer are not required to report under APS 11.8; however, students are encouraged to report incidents of suspected child abuse or neglect. University students in healthcare programs, like medicine or nursing, may have school-established reporting responsibilities as part of their educational program.
How soon must I report suspected child abuse or neglect?
You must report to law enforcement or the Department of Social and Health Services at the first opportunity, but no later than 48 hours after you have reasonable cause to suspect that abuse or neglect is occurring or has taken place. If the abuse or neglect may be occurring in a UW program or facility, report to your supervisor or HR administrator as soon as possible afterward.
Before I report suspected child abuse or neglect, should I look into it further or talk to the child?
No. You are not expected to and should not try to do your own investigation. When you report, you will be asked to share only what you know or have observed.
What will the Department of Social and Health Services or the police do after I report?
Those agencies will assess the information you have provided to determine what action to take and whether an investigation should be opened. When you report, you can request the case number and caseworker’s name if you wish to follow up on the status of the case.
Can I report suspected child abuse or neglect anonymously to the Department of Social and Health Services or to the police?
DSHS and the police do not allow anonymous reporting. When you report, DSHS or the police will ask you to provide your name. One of the reasons is so that they can confirm that you have made a report in accordance with the Abuse of Children law. Another reason is that they may also need your cooperation if an investigation is initiated.
Will my name be shared with the person who my report is about?
According to the Department of Social and Health Services, the reporter’s name generally is kept confidential, but there may be limits to this confidentiality.
If I have called the police or Department of Social and Health Services, do I also have to report suspected child abuse or neglect to my supervisor or administrative head?
Yes, if the suspected abuse or neglect may be occurring in a University program or facility. The requirement to report to your supervisor or administrative head is to ensure that the University can determine whether action is necessary to protect the child or other children in the program from possible harm and to take any other administrative action that may be appropriate.
What will my administrative head do after I report suspected child abuse or neglect?
Your administrative head will ensure that the UW Police Department and Human Resources are notified, and any other offices, as necessary.
Once I have made an administrative report, do I need to follow up?
Once you have made a report to your supervisor, if you have any concerns that appropriate actions have not been taken to protect the child, then you can check in with your supervisor or administrator. You may also contact the UW Police Department or Human Resources directly if you have any concerns about the University’s response to your report. You should not try to take action on your own with the child or the suspected perpetrator.
What consequences might there be for employees who do not follow the policy and report suspected child abuse or neglect to their supervisor?
If you, as a University employee, fail to comply with University policies that apply to your employment, then you may be subject to corrective or disciplinary action, including dismissal. In addition to APS 11.8, there are other University policies that also provide for reporting concerns relating to the safety of a child in a University program or facility. For example, the University’s Policy and Procedure on Violence in the Workplace
describes your responsibilities to report violence that may be occurring in the workplace. Executive Order No. 31
, the University’s non-discrimination policy, describes your responsibilities to report sexual harassment, which includes sexual violence. These policies, together, were created to advance the University’s commitment to a fostering a safe University community for everyone, including children.
If I have reported suspected child abuse or neglect to my supervisor but not to the police or Department of Social and Health Services, do I also have to report to DSHS or the police too? What if my supervisor already called the police?
Yes, you must report because all University employees and volunteers have an individual responsibility to report to the police or DSHS in accordance with the requirements in Administrative Policy Statement 11.8.
If I report suspected abuse by a co-worker and they find out I was the one to call, then my work environment may become uncomfortable. What do I do then?
Under Administrative Policy Statement 11.8, retaliation against University employees and volunteers who make a report is prohibited. If you believe you have been retaliated against for making a report under APS 11.8, inform your supervisor, your department administrator, and/or Human Resources.
Do I have to report suspected abuse or neglect that I might learn about outside of work? For example, must I report if I am concerned about the treatment of a child in my neighborhood?
The Abuse of Children law does not clearly state whether the mandate for employees of higher education institutions to report suspected child abuse or neglect is limited to suspected abuse or neglect that you learn about in the course of your employment. You will have to use your own best judgment about whether to make a report based on the information you have about the suspected abuse or neglect you may have observed.
I am a licensed practitioner and have been a mandated reporter for years. How does this change the reporting I must do?
The 2012 amendment to the Abuse of Children law did not affect the responsibilities for licensed professionals to report or the process for reporting. For University employees who are healthcare providers at the University of Washington Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, or Hall Health Primary Care Center, Administrative Policy Statement 11.8 was also not intended to alter the medical centers’ procedures for responding to suspected abuse or neglect. If your department has an internal procedure that you believe may be in conflict with APS 11.8, you are encouraged to bring it to the attention of your supervisor.
Can I be sued for reporting?
The Abuse of Children law provides immunity from civil claims to those who report suspected child abuse or neglect and who cooperate in an investigation in good faith (RCW 26.44.060). This immunity does not apply to a person who caused or allowed the child abuse or neglect to occur. The Abuse of Children law also requires public employers indemnify employees who report suspected child abuse or neglect in good faith. This means that the University will provide legal defense for a University employee who makes a report of suspected abuse or neglect as required by University policy. Review the Board of Regents Standing Order Chapter 5
for more about indemnification.
I called SafeCampus to talk about my concerns. Do I still have to call police?
Yes. Because Safe Campus is not a law enforcement agency, contacting Safe Campus does not satisfy the mandate to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Safe Campus will also not be able to give you an opinion on whether you must report, but Safe Campus can help you with making an appropriate report or providing assistance if you are concerned about the safety of a minor in a University program or facility.
Isn’t it possible that people may make false reports?
Anyone who is found to have made a false report may be guilty of a gross misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense, under the Abuse of Children law.
What if I’m not sure that what I have observed is really child abuse or neglect?
If you are in doubt about whether it should be reported, the Department of Social and Health Services encourages you to make your concerns known rather than to remain silent and possibly allow a child to remain unprotected. Also, if you are concerned about the actions of an individual in a University program or facility, discuss it with your supervisor. The University may need to take action to ensure that the child or other children are protected, even if the actions of that individual might not rise to the level of a crime.
What if the person whose safety I’m concerned about is a teenager and I know they wouldn’t want me to report my concerns?
Mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect applies to all children under 18 years of age. According to the Department of Social and Health Services, potential signs of child abuse and neglect must not be discounted because of a child’s age or because you think older children can protect themselves.
What if the suspected child abuse or neglect happened long ago?
You do not have to report if the suspected abuse or neglect was discovered after the child has become an adult (18 years or older). But, if you believe other children are or may be at risk of abuse or neglect by the same individual, the reporting requirement does apply and a report must be made.
Does the Family Educational Privacy Act (FERPA) prevent me from disclosing information about a child who is not enrolled at the University, but is participating in a University program, like a summer educational camp?
No. The Family Educational Record Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that covers disclosure of the educational records of students enrolled at the University; therefore, FERPA only applies to students who are enrolled at the University.
The Safety of Minors Compliance Support program in the Office of Risk Management is providing resources and education about topics relating to the safety of minors at the University, including the reporting requirements under the Abuse of Children law and Administrative Policy 11.8: Reporting Suspected Child Abuse. For questions about APS 11.8, send an email to Caroline Shelton.