Last updated June 17, 2015
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NASW Law Note

Social Workers and Child Abuse Reporting

A Review of State Mandatory Reporting Requirements


Federal Legislation—The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974 (CAPTA)

  • CAPTA Requirements
  • Minimum Acceptable Definitions

State Statutes

  • Definitions
    • Child
    • Physical Abuse
    • Sexual Abuse
    • Neglect
    • Emotional Maltreatment
    • Corporal Punishment
  • Problems of Ambiguity in State Definitions

Mandated Reporters

Reporting and Reporting Procedures

  • Jurisdiction
  • Acceptable Time Frame for Reporting
  • Content of Reports
  • When Reporting Responsibility Ends
  • Privileged Communication Exception


  • Good Faith Requirement
  • Good Faith Presumption
  • Absolute Immunity

Failure to Report

  • Criminal Liability
  • Civil Liability
  • Statutory Civil Liability
  • Negligence Per Se
  • General Common Law Tort Theory Professional Malpractice
  • Intentional False Reporting

Ethical Considerations

Issues Involving CPS Workers

Emerging Issues

  • Adult Survivors of Abuse and Adult Recovered Memory
  • Cross-Jurisdictional Cases
  • Child Pornography
  • “Sexting”

Practical Steps for the Social Worker

  • Verify Reporting Duty with Local Authorities
  • Understand the Signs of Abuse
  • Understand the Process of Investigation
  • Document the Details
  • Consult Supervisors and Appropriate Legal Counsel



Appendix A: Individual State Summaries of Mandatory Reporting Requirements 2011