University of Michigan researchers find that mandatory reporting is correlated with lower rates of confirmed reports.

Academic / Technical Report
Frank E. Vandervort

Frank E. Vandervort and Vincent J. Palusci, "Effects of Clergy Reporting Laws on Child Maltreatment Report Rates," APSAC Advisor 16, no. 1 (2014): 16-26

APSAC Advisor
Frank E. Vandervort, Vincent J. Palusci, APSAC Advisor
The Academy

Child maltreatment (CM) reporting laws and policies have an important role in the identification, treatment, and prevention of CM in the United States (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [US DHHS], 2012). Abuse by a member of the clergy “is not only a personal and emotional betrayal, but [also] a spiritual betrayal, with secrecy amplified by the unprecedented and systemic cover-up committed by the Church hierarchy” (Coyne, 2011, p. 15). Recent controversies have resulted in the consideration of changes in mandated U.S. reporting laws that include increasing requirements for clergy and extension to additional professions (Freeh, Sporkin, & Sullivan, 2012; Loviglio, 2012).

Many professionals and policymakers have expected that these changes will result in better identification and response to CM, but the effects of such changes on reporting rates have not yet been systematically evaluated. When the categories of professionals required to report suspected child sexual assault in New South Wales, Australia, for example, were extended to include teachers and other school professionals, there was a significant increase in the number of reports received from teachers but no change in the quality of their reports as measured by the percentage of reports that were verified (Lamond, 1989). When we looked at the association of universal reporting laws with total and confirmed CM reports, there were higher report rates in large counties with universal reporting, but most of the additional confirmed reports were for neglect (Palusci & Vandervort, 2014). It is important to take current specific laws and child and community factors into account if we are to understand the full effects of their implementation on the accurate reporting and identification of CM.

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