Mandated Reporters: Who are they and what is their role in reducing child abuse?

Anyone can report suspected child abuse or neglect, but if you are identified in the Code of Virginia (§ 63.2-1509) as a mandated reporter or you have received training in recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect – then you are a mandated reporter. Over the summer, we have trained mandated reporters everywhere from summer camps to childcare centers to schools.

As a mandated reporter, you are required, by law, to immediately report your suspicions to the local department of social services or to the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline. The purpose of mandated reporting is to identify suspected abused and neglected children as soon as possible so that they can be protected from further harm.

When should I report?

When you suspect that a child is being abused or neglected. You do not need proof.  You make a report when you suspect or have reason to suspect that abuse or neglect is occurring.  If you wait for proof, it might be too late.

What if I do not report?

If you, as a mandated reporter, fail to report as soon as possible but no longer than 24 hours after having reason to suspect a reportable offense, you can be fined.

What are my rights as a mandated reporter?

Under the Code of Virginia, a mandated reporter who either makes a CPS report or participates in a court hearing that results from a CPS report, is protected from criminal and civil liability unless it is proven that the person acted with malicious intent.

What if I am not sure abuse or neglect has occurred?

If you are not sure about what to do, you should discuss the situation with your local department of social services, child protective services unit, or with staff at the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline.

If a child has told you about abuse or neglect, this is enough for you to call.

What do you do when you witness an adult behaving aggressively with a child?

  • Avoid negative remarks or looks.  When you intervene, try to keep the conversation positive otherwise; it could make the situation worse.
  • Start a conversation with the adult to direct attention away from the child.  The goal is to start a conversation that moves the adult away from the negative interaction they were having with the child.
  • Divert the child’s attention.  If you can, talk about anything positive that the child is doing; use that as a way to start the conversation.
  • Look for an opportunity to praise the adult or child.  By finding a way to compliment either the child or the adult, you can potentially diffuse the situation and reframe it for the adult.
  • Use humor, experience or friendliness to break up stressful moments.  As long as it is done in a way that does not belittle either the parent or child, acting in a lighthearted way can offer perspective, a change of pace, or the reframing that can help diffuse a situation.
  • If the child is in immediate danger, TAKE ACTION.  If the child is at risk of being physically harmed or in need of any assistance, offer it to them as soon as possible.  This includes taking actions like calling over a security guard or calling the police if the situation requires intervention.
  • Make a report if you suspect abuse, a child has disclosed to you that they have been abused, or you have witnessed abuse.


When children have strong, healthy relationships with nurturing adults, they become safer, stronger & happier.

Positive adult-child connections are critical to keep children safe and nurture their growth and development.

Kids with meaningful connections are more resilient in the face of daily life challenges and even more severe trauma.

Still have questions?  Please contact SCAN or any of your local Child Protective Services offices to get more information, more training, and to dispel any myths that you or your staff may have.

  • SCAN: 703-820-9001
  • Alexandria CPS: 703-746-5800
  • Arlington CPS: 703-228-1500
  • Fairfax  CPS: 703-324-7400
  • Loudoun CPS: 703-771-5437
  • Prince William CPS: 703-792-4200
  • Manassas CPS: 800-552-7096

– Tracy Leonard, Public Education Manager

New Work = New Opportunities with Mandated Reporters

SCAN’s work in Public Education has been expanding its reach to include child care workers. These newly formed relationships are a perfect example of how we connect with the communities in which we live.

Through our involvement with the Child Protection Partnership of Greater Prince William, we have received funding and administrative support from the Early Childhood Partnership to train 100 child care workers in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park using the Darkness to Light curriculum. There are 6 trainings scheduled before January 1 in which child care staff from large centers, home-based centers, and preschools will be trained.

Another opportunity with local child care workers came up as well — to educate them about their role as mandated reporters and more importantly, their role in protecting children.  SCAN was connected with Open Arms Christian Child Development Center in Ashburn by one of our board members, Joe Carlin.  Through this connection, we were able to provide one of our newly developed workshops to a group of over 70 child care staff at Open Arms.

Although child care staff are required to take mandated reporter training, mostly through online tools, it is important to have discussions around the topic in person and to constantly remind child care workers that they are mandated reporters and have a responsibility to protect children.  Through this training, not only did we discuss the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters within their center, but also when they are in the community.  Their mandated reporter “hat” should not simply come off when they walk out of their classrooms.  They have an obligation to help keep all of the children in their communities safe by speaking up when they witness abuse or harsh interactions or when they have suspicions of child abuse and neglect.

It is a great responsibility to be a mandated reporter.  But children need a voice and it starts with them and it should start with you, too.

For more information about workshops – fee for service workshops

For more information about harsh interactions – fact sheet

For more information about being a voice for children – Advocacy Day

A change in season, a change in law

Do you know who is required to report child abuse?
Do you know how quickly it must be reported?

In Virginia, beginning on July 1, 2012, the law is changing regarding mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect.

A mandated reporter is one who meets the following requirements:

  • Any person, 18 years of age or older, associated with or employed by any public organization responsible for the care, custody or control of children
  • Any athletic coach, director or other person 18 years of age or older employed by or volunteering with a private sports organization or team
  • Administrators or employees 18 years of age or older of public or private day camps, youth centers and youth recreation programs

The time for a mandated reporter to make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect has been reduced from 72 hours to 24 hours. In addition, it will be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor for those knowingly and intentionally failing to make the required report.  Another change from the current law refers to communication. If a mandated reporter makes a report to their supervisor (or person in charge of institution, department, etc.) then that person must notify the employee of when the report was made to child protective services (CPS) and any information about action taken. This ensures that all adults are included in the communication loop and that a situation of abuse will not fall through the cracks.

Under this new law, if you are unsure a call to CPS has been made, MAKE THE CALL (see local phone numbers here) before the 24-hour reporting period comes to an end. It is better that there are two reports than no report!

More questions on mandated reporting?