Know the Law

Everyone in Maryland Is Obligated Under the Law to Report Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect

We are all obligated to report suspicions of abuse (Maryland Family Law 5-705). There are specific legal requirements for individuals who come into contact with children and youth because of the nature of the work they do. Maryland law defines these individuals as mandated reporters.   The law defines these individuals as those who, "within the practice of their employment, occupation, or profession have reason to believe a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect." Mandated reporters are required to make an oral report as soon as possible to their local department of social services or law enforcement, and follow-up with a written report within 48 hours (Maryland Family Law 5-704).

Who Are Mandated Reporters

Mandated reporters play an integral role in the protection of children and are often child friendly professionals such as health practitioners, police officers, educators, and human service workersIf you are a mandated reporter you will often be the first to see signs of abuse and neglect. If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, you have a duty to report it.

Reporting Does Not Require Proof

You do not need to have proof that abuse or neglect has occurred to make a report. Incidents  are to  be reported  as  quickly as  possible and  waiting for or looking for proof may put a child at risk of great harm and interfer with the investigation. If you are wrong- it's okay!  You are immune from civil liability and criminal penalty for reporting when you have reason to believe abuse or neglect (Maryland Family Law 5-708). 

However, if you are a Mandated Reporter and you knowingly fail to report a suspicion of child abuse, or if you interfere with the making of a report, you may be subject to professional sanctions by your licensing board, civil liability, and criminal penalties.

Responsibilities of a Mandated Reporter

If you are a mandated reporter and you have reason to believe a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect you must:

1. Make a Verbal Report

Call your local department of social services or law enforcement agency as soon as possible. Find your local social services office here.

If you work at a hospital, public health agency, child care institution, juvenile detention center, school or similar institution you must also immediately notify the head of the institution or their designee. NOTE: Internal reporting to the head of an institution does NOT replace a person’s mandatory duty to report the abuse to local departments and law enforcement. These laws supersede any policy of an agency.

2. File a Written Report

Mandated Reporters must must submit a written report to the local department of social services within 48 hours. Form DHR/SSA 180. You should keep a copy of your written report and the date and time you made the verbal report.