Who must report child abuse besides a parent?

A professional has a duty, just like a parent does, to report child abuse whether physical or emotional. A person having cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person shall immediately make a report.

If a professional has cause to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or may be abused or neglected, or that a child is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code, and the professional has cause to believe that the child has been abused, the professional shall make a report not later than the 48th hour after the hour the professional first suspects that the child has been or may be abused or neglected or is a victim of an offense under Section 21.11, Penal Code. A professional may not delegate to or rely on another person to make the report. In Texas, a “professional” means an individual who is licensed or certified by the state or who is an employee of a facility licensed, certified, or operated by the state and who, in the normal course of official duties or duties for which a license or certification is required, has direct contact with children. The term includes teachers, nurses, doctors, day-care employees, employees of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services, juvenile probation officers, and juvenile detention or correctional officers.

In addition to the duty to make a report, a person or professional shall make a report in the manner required by law, as applicable, if the person or professional has cause to believe that an adult was a victim of abuse or neglect as a child and the person or professional determines in good faith that disclosure of the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of another child or an elderly person or person with a disability.

The requirement to report applies without exception to an individual whose personal communications may otherwise be privileged, including an attorney, a member of the clergy, a medical practitioner, a social worker, a mental health professional, an employee or member of a board that licenses or certifies a professional, and an employee of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services.

Unless waived in writing by the person making the report, the identity of an individual making a report under this chapter is confidential and may be disclosed only as provided by law or to a law enforcement officer for the purposes of conducting a criminal investigation of the report.

Section 261.106 of the Texas Family Code grants immunity for persons reporting abuse.

In the case, Perry v. S.N., a violation of the child abuse reporting statute does not constitute negligence per se.

In Bordelon v. State,  in a criminal case, the defendant’s attorney had a duty to report abuse after learning of a new victim in her trial preparation.

In the case of Colt v. Hamner, the court held that the statutes do not create a private cause of action; rather, enforcement is within the sole purview of the prosecuting attorney.

What matters have to be reported?

A report should reflect the reporter’s belief that a child has been or may be abused or neglected or has died of abuse or neglect.  Except as provided by Subsections (b) and (c) and Section 261.405, a report shall be made to any local or state law enforcement agency; the department; or the state agency that operates, licenses, certifies, or registers the facility in which the alleged abuse or neglect occurred.

A report may be made to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department instead of the entities listed if the report is based on information provided by a child while under the supervision of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department concerning the child’s alleged abuse of another child.

A report must be made to the department if the alleged or suspected abuse or neglect involves a person responsible for the care, custody, or welfare of the child.

This article focuses on the professional’s duty to report suspected abuse or neglect of a child.   However, in Texas, a parent also has a duty to report to the authorities any suspected abuse or neglect of a child by another adult or another family member in the household.