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Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting-Alaska

Pursuant to the need for intervention in child abuse and neglect cases, Alaska law requires that certain groups of people formally report confirmed and suspected child abuse and neglect.  Groups who must report include individuals who are most likely to be in contact with children under the age of 18, and who, therefore, are most likely to see and hear important clues about instances of abuse and neglect.[i] However, people who do not belong to the group are not prohibited from reporting child abuse or neglect.[ii]

Practitioners of the healing arts; teachers and administrative staff members of public and private schools; peace officers and officers of the Department of Corrections; administrative officers of private or public hospitals or health care facilities; child care providers; paid employees of domestic violence and sexual assault programs, and crisis intervention and prevention programs; paid employees of an organization that provides counseling or treatment to individuals; and, members of a child fatality review or multidisciplinary child protection team shall have the duty to report obvious or suspected abuse or neglect of a child below the age of 18, noticed by them while performing their occupational or appointed duties.  They may also report child abuse or neglect that came to their attention in their non occupational capacities.[iii]

According to Alaska Stat. § 47.17.290 “child abuse or neglect” means physical or mental injury, neglect or maltreatment of a minor child.  The section more specifically states:

“child abuse or neglect” means the physical injury or neglect, mental injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or maltreatment of a child under the age of 18 by a person under circumstances that indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or threatened thereby; in this paragraph, “mental injury” means an injury to the emotional well-being, or intellectual or psychological capacity of a child, as evidenced by an observable and substantial impairment in the child’s ability to function.

The report must be made within 24 hours of noticing the child abuse or neglect to the nearest office of the Department of Health and Social Services.[iv] If the person making a report cannot contact the nearest office of the Department and immediate action is necessary for the well being of the child, the person shall make the report to a peace officer. Upon receiving the report, the peace officer shall immediately take action to protect the child and shall notify the nearest office of the Department at the earliest opportunity.

If a child is provided treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by an accredited practitioner of the church or denomination, failure to provide medical attention to the child based on their belief shall not be reported as child abuse or neglect. [v]

The Department shall maintain a central registry of all investigation reports.  However, the registry shall not maintain reports of harm.  Investigation reports and reports of harm are considered to be confidential.  They are not subject to public inspection and copying.  Investigation reports may be used by appropriate governmental agencies with child-protection functions, inside and outside the state, in connection with investigations or judicial proceedings involving child abuse, neglect, or custody.  However, the disclosure must be in accordance with department regulations. [vi]

Any person who negligently discloses any confidential information by acting against the department regulations shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor.[vii] A person who fails to report child abuse or neglect is guilty of a class A misdemeanor. [viii] A person required to report child abuse or neglect shall not be relieved of his duty to report to the Department even if he/she makes the report to the person’s job supervisor or to another individual working for the entity that employs the person. [ix]

Any person who, in good faith, makes a report, permits an interview or participates in judicial proceedings related to the submission of reports is immune from civil or criminal liability that might otherwise be incurred or imposed for making the report or permitting the interview.  A person who knowingly makes an untimely report is not immune from civil or criminal liability based on the delay in making the report. [x]

However, a person accused of committing the child abuse or neglect is not immune from civil or criminal liability for the child abuse or neglect on account of reporting the child abuse or neglect.[xi]

[i] http://www.hss.state.ak.us/ocs/publications/ReportingChildAbuse.htm

[ii] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.020

[iii] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.020

[iv] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.020

[v] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.020

[vi] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.040

[vii] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.040

[viii] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.068

[ix] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.020

[x] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.050

[xi] Alaska Stat. § 47.17.050

Inside Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting-Alaska