Why few People are Arrested for Filing False Child Abuse Reports

I’ve read both of the other articles written to this title. Unfortunately, they only tell half of the story. Both pieces deal with people who are falsely accused by former spouses of child abuse. The former spouses’ apparent only motive for these false accusations is to get the others into trouble. In this type of instance, I agree with the writers-those filing the false reports should pay some sort of penalty. But, there are other times when a false child abuse report is understandable. Let me explain.

In the state of Illinois (and I assume most other states as well) there are certain professions which are considered “mandatory report” professions. Among the professions (and there are others) included are: teachers, doctors and other health care professionals, social workers and other case management type positions. I happen to work in social services case management. I’m a mandatory reporter. We have to go through mandatory reporting training once a year. I’ve learned this stuff pretty well, by now. I do know what I’m talking about, having been through the training at least a dozen times.

Depending on the age of the alleged victim, there are three different agencies to whom one reports suspected abuse. For children under eighteen, a report is made to DCFS (Department of Children & Family Services). If an adult between the ages of 18 and 65 ( I happen to work with persons with developmental disabilities), the reporting agency is OIG (Office of the Inspector General). If the suspected abuse happens to someone over 65, the agency is the local Council on Aging. In the nearly 24 years I’ve been in the field, I have only had to make one report. It was on behalf of an elderly woman. At that time, I was working in a psychiatric facility. She told me and my supervisor that her adult son and his wife were refusing to feed her and taking advantage of her, financially. As a mandatory reporter, I was obligated to make a report to the local council on aging. The report was determined unfounded.

Now, I know my example is not one of a false child abuse report, but, in Illinois, it is essentially the same. The way the mandatory report rules are written, I had no choice when filing the report. The laws are quite clear. If you’re a mandatory reporter and you suspect, or even hear of suspected, abuse, you must file a report. It is the state’s opinion that if you hear something, it isn’t your job to determine it’s plausability. I had a pretty good idea that the woman in the above cited example was not a reliable source of information. She was, after all, placed in a mental health facility-and was suffering from the early stages of dementia. But, according to state law, it wasn’t my job to decide if she was reliable. I heard suspicion of abuse and I was compelled, by state law, to report it. It was up to the coucil on aging to decide if it was a legitimate claim or not.

While I sympathize with the people who have been falsely accused, everyone must understand, there are professionals who must report suspected abuse, whether or not they believe the allegations, based on the occupations they hold. These mandatory report professions are in place for the protection of the children. It is the state’s position that they’d rather investigate false claims than ignore real ones. Essentially, all of this is for the protection of the children.