IPT Book Reviews

Title: Mandated Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse: Ethics, Law, and Policy Positive Review Positive Review
Author: Seth C. Kalichman
Publisher: American Psychological Association, 1993

American Psychological Association
APA Order Department
P.O. Box 92984
Washington, DC 20090-2984
(800) 374-2721
$39.95 (c)

Every practicing mental health professional, including psychologists, psychiatrists, and social workers, needs to be familiar with the contents of this 245-page book. Every physician, nurse, teacher, clergyperson, and even college professor, should know what this book tells about. It may even be smart for attorneys to know this book. Another class of beneficiaries would be administrators of hospitals, schools, churches, and medical practices. All of these groups are vulnerable to the impositions of mandated reporting laws on their professional lives in ways that can be quite distressing.

The laws requiring professionals to report suspected child abuse are vague, subject to a variety of interpretations and applications, but also draconian in their potential impact upon professionals whom the laws cover to mandate reporting, but who may not do so. The cases described are frightening in their potential for ending careers.

It appears that the best way to respond to mandated reporting laws is to report everything and make no attempt to sort through the ethical dilemmas or to predict possible outcomes. A single paragraph on page 59 suggests this tactic. Just report it. This protects the professional and does not appear to produce any necessary down side in spite of widespread fears about confidentiality and the therapeutic relationship. If the professional believes there is likely no abuse, tell that to the authorities when reporting it. They are most likely going to give some weight to a caveat from a professional. If there is any overresponding by the system, go to bat for the client and do what needs to be done to stop it. This strategy seems likely to have the most benefit to all concerned and the least downside.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, Institute for Psychological Therapies.

Order this book: Hardcover Paperback

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