The Obligation to Report Child Abuse

Many of us, regrettably, will encounter stories of child abuse, so it’s important to be aware of the reporting requirements:

1. The Act which governs this is the Child, Family and Community Service Act, particularly section 13 (criteria/scope) and section 14 (reporting).

2. The Act deals with child abuse and defines a child as anyone under the age of 19.

3. Child abuse is defined by law as:
– sexual abuse: any sexual touching or intercourse between a child and an older person, or using a child for sexual purposes;
– physical abuse: any physical force or action by a parent or adult which could injure a child and which exceeds “reasonable discipline”‘
– neglect: failing to look after the physical, emotional or medical needs of a child, so that the child’s health, development or safety is endangered.

4. ANYONE who suspects or believes that a child is being abused or neglected MUST report this to a child protection social worker (the only exception is for a lawyer who may suspect his client).

5. If your patient is over 19 years of age and describes abuse which happened while they were under 19, you are not required to report it. However, if that information may be relevant to other children today, then you are required to report it. For example, an adult patient discloses sexual abuse by an uncle, and you find out that her brother doesn’t believe her and still takes his own children over there for sleepover visits: this could be a possible risk of abuse for those children and you must report it.

6. Report the abuse to the local office of the Ministry for Children and Families, and ask to speak to a child protection social worker. Or dial 604 310 1234, which is the children’s helpline, and is answered by a child protection social worker.

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