Under the law RCW 26.44.030, specific individuals must report abuse or neglect of children to law enforcement or Child Protective Services (CPS). These “mandatory reporters” include:

  • Professional school personnel
  • Registered/licensed nurses or social service counselors
  • Licensed or certified childcare providers or their employees
  • Supervisors of staff or volunteers who coach, train, educate, counsel, or have regularly unsupervised access to children

What is required?

Any mandatory reporter who has “reasonable cause” to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect must report it, and the report must include the identity of the accused if known.

“Reasonable cause” means a person witnesses OR receives a credible written or oral report alleging abuse, including sexual contact or neglect of a child. The report must be made at the first opportunity but no longer than forty-eight hours after there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect.

The updated 2019 definition no longer allows mandatory reporters a reasonable time to investigate allegations before making a report. If there are allegations of abuse or neglect, a report must be made within the required time frame, regardless of whether the reporter believes the allegation is true. This can be an emotionally challenging experience. Anyone who knowingly fails to make a mandatory report within the compulsory timeframe is considered guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

There has been a significant increase in law enforcement officers pursuing criminal charges against individuals who fail to report. In one case, a school administrator was charged criminally for failing to report promptly an incident that happened at school, even though the victim’s family had already reported the incident to law enforcement, and the perpetrator was immediately expelled and had no further contact with the victim.