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Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting-Hawaii

Any licensed or registered professional of the healing arts or any other health-related occupation; school employees; law enforcement employees; child care providers; medical examiners/coroners; and employees of public or private agency providing social, medical, mental health, or recreational/sports activities who come to know about any incidents of child abuse or neglect;  or expect that there is a reasonable risk of a child abuse or neglect occurring in the foreseeable future have to report such incidents if they notice such incidents in their professional or official capacity.  The report must be made to the Department of Human Services (Department) or to the police department immediately. [i] In addition to these persons, any other person who knows or suspects instances of child abuse or neglect may also report to the Department or the police department. [ii] The report may be made orally.[iii]

The term “Child abuse or neglect” is defined in HRS § 350-1.  It includes the acts or omissions of any person or legal entity in any degree related to the child, is residing with the child, or is responsible for the child’s care that resulted in the actual harm to the physical or psychological health and welfare of a child under the age of 18 or a foreseeable substantial risk of being harmed.  The acts or omissions are indicated by circumstances which include:

  • Multiple skin bruising, injury, bleeding, malnutrition, internal bleeding, burns, poisoning, bone fracture, swelling, degradation, mental distress, extreme pain or death that cannot be justifiably explained as an accidental occurrence.
  • Sexual exploitation of the child which includes prostitution, sexual contact, sexual abuse, or obscene filming, photography or pornography.
  • Impairment in the psychological capacity of a child.
  • Lack of food, clothing, shelter, psychological care, physical care, medical care, or supervision to the child.
  • Providing dangerous and detrimental drugs to the child.  However, the child may be given such drugs on a practitioner’s prescription.

If the mandated reporter of child abuse or neglect is an employee of a public or private school, agency, or institution, he/she must immediately report the known or suspected child abuse or neglect directly to the Department or to the police department.  Additionally, the reporter must immediately notify the person in charge or a designated delegate. [iv]

Soon after making the initial oral report, a written report must also be submitted.  If a police department or the Department Of Public Safety is the initiating agency, a written report shall be filed with the department for cases that the police or the department of public safety takes further action on or for active cases in the Department.[v]

All written reports must contain:[vi]

  • name and address of the child and the child’s parents or other persons responsible for the child’s care, if known.
  • the child’s age.
  • the nature and extent of the child’s injuries.
  • and any other information that may be helpful or relevant to the investigation of the child abuse or neglect.

Any person mandated to report incidents of child abuse or neglect shall provide all information relating to the child abuse or neglect including medical record if the Department or the police department demands the same.[vii]

Upon receiving a report, the Department shall inform the appropriate police department of all reports received by the Department in relation to that case.  The Department shall also inform the appropriate police department or office of the prosecuting attorney of the relevant information concerning a case of child abuse or neglect if the information is required by the police department or the office of the prosecuting attorney for the investigation or prosecution of that case. The identity of the reporter shall not be disclosed.  However, the reporter’s identity may be disclosed if there is a court order or the reporter agrees to disclose his/her identity. [viii]

The Department maintains a central registry of reported child abuse or neglect cases.  It promptly expunges reports if: the reports contain allegation that are frivolous and made in bad faith; or the petition arising from the report has been dismissed on merits by the Family Court after a hearing.  However, the Department may retain the records. [ix]

Anyone participating in good faith in the making a report shall be immune from any civil or criminal action that might be otherwise result as a result of the making of such report.  The immunity also applies to participation in any judicial proceeding resulting from such report.  Any individual discharging his/her duties and responsibilities in accordance with the reporting laws shall be immune from any civil liability for the acts or omissions performed within the scope of his duty /responsibility. [x]

The physician-patient privilege, the psychologist-client privilege, the spousal privilege, and the victim-counselor privilege shall not be grounds for excluding evidence in any judicial proceeding resulting from a report of child abuse or neglect. [xi]

The Department shall provide periodic orientation and training program to person responsible for making reports of child abuse and neglect.  These programs would help to improve the identification of child abuse and neglect. [xii] Any person who fails to report any instances of child abuse or neglect or who knowingly prevents another person from reporting shall be guilty of a petty misdemeanor. [xiii]

[i] HRS § 350-1.1(a)

[ii] HRS § 350-1.3

[iii] HRS § 350-1.1(a)

[iv] HRS § 350-1.1(b)

[v] HRS § 350-1.1(c)

[vi] HRS § 350-1.1(c)

[vii] HRS § 350-1.1(d)

[viii] HRS § 350-2(b),(c)

[ix] HRS § 350-2(d)

[x] HRS § 350-3

[xi] HRS § 350-5

[xii] HRS § 350-1.15

[xiii] HRS § 350-1.2

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