Does the protection of vulnerable children require a system of mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect? [An issues paper for the New Zealand Government Green Paper for vulnerable children]

Mathews, Benjamin P. & (2012) Does the protection of vulnerable children require a system of mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect? [An issues paper for the New Zealand Government Green Paper for vulnerable children].


In this Issues Paper, I raise some key points relevant for any government which is considering its child protection and family welfare policy. In particular, I will raise questions about whether a form of legislative reporting duty is required, and if so, what consequences this has for child protection. The context of child maltreatment - and each form of maltreatment: physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and neglect - is extremely complex, and the overarching question of how to deal with these phenomena involve challenging normative, economic and practical questions. There are no easy or perfect solutions. Nor, often, is there the amount and quality of evidence available on which public policy approaches should be devised. However, from the best evidence about the history of this context, from research conducted in this field, and from the best evidence available about the nature, incidence and effects of different subtypes of maltreatment, some observations can be made which may help to inform deliberations.

I outline 10 key issues related to mandatory reporting legislation while being mindful of the New Zealand context. My view, based on both research evidence and a concern to protect and promote children’s interests, and society’s interests, is that reporting laws in some form are necessary and can contribute substantially to child protection and enhancing family and community health and wellbeing. However, they are only one necessary part of a sound child protection system, being a method of tertiary and secondary prevention, and primary prevention efforts must also be prioritised. Moreover, it is essential that if a legislative reporting duty is enacted, it must be designed carefully and implemented soundly, and it must be integrated within a properly resourced child protection and family welfare system.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 53081
Item Type: Report
Refereed: No
Additional Information: Report requested by Social Service Providers Aotearoa, for the SSPA Seminar Series on the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children, New Zealand, February 2012
Keywords: Law, Child abuse and neglect, Mandatory reporting laws, Mandated reporting laws, Differential response, Social policy, Evidence, Comparative law
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Law and Society (180119)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Current > Schools > School of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Benjamin Mathews
Deposited On: 12 Aug 2012 23:32
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2015 06:51

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