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Colorado Mandatory Reporting Laws for Suspected Child Abuse And Neglect 19-3-304 – Extended and Extended Again

By H. Michael Steinberg Colorado Criminal Defense Lawyer for the Defense Of Child Abuse Cases

A new 2013 Colorado law SB 13-012 Extends Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Suspected Child Abuse – Cited as having been passed in the best interests of children – the Colorado State Legislature extended the current mandatory reporting law – 19-3-304 – to now include directors, coaches, assistant coaches, and other athletic program personnel of private sports organizations as mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect.

The Way Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse Law Works In Colorado

Mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect in Colorado must report suspected child abuse when the reporter, in his or her professional capacity, suspects or has reasons to believe that a child has been abused or neglected.

A report is required when the reporter has knowledge of, or observes a child being subjected to conditions that would reasonably result in harm to the child. Under these circumstances the reporter is to report to local authorities or faces possible criminal charges for failure to report.

The Standard Is Reasonable Cause to Know Or Suspect…

Under Colorado law – a mandatory reporter must report to his or her suspicion to “the proper authorities” suspected child abuse or neglect when they have “reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or has observed a child being subject to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect.

The reasoning here is that “the proper authorities” … “are in the best position through training and experience to not only assess the threat to the child, but to protect the child from further harm and provide any necessary services to the child.”

Professionals Required to Report Under 19-3-304

Before the change in the law adding Sports based professionals – the following list of mandatory reporters was the latest and most complete compilation:

Physicians, surgeons, physicians in training, child health associates, medical examiners, coroners, dentists, osteopaths, optometrists, chiropractors, podiatrists, nurses, hospital personnel, dental hygienists, physical therapists, pharmacists, registered dieticians.

Public or private school officials or employees

Social workers, Christian Science practitioners, mental health professionals, psychologists, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists

Veterinarians, peace officers, firefighters, or victim’s advocates

Commercial film and photographic print processors

Counselors, marriage and family therapists, or psychotherapists

Clergy members, including priests, rabbis, duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed ministers of a church, members of religious orders, or recognized leaders of any religious bodies

Workers in the State Department of Human Services

Juvenile parole and probation officers

Child and family investigators

Officers and agents of the State Bureau of Animal Protection and animal control officers

Reporting by Other Persons

“May Vs Shall” – Was The Suspected Observed Within Or Without The Mandatory Reporter’s Professional Capacity?

The law becomes discretionary – that is NOT mandatory – when the person is not exposed to the suspected child abuse within that person’s professional capacity.

The law – 19-3-304 – reads:

“Any mandated reporter acting outside his or her professional capacity, or any other person having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, may report.

A report is required when, in the ordinary course of his or her employment or profession, a reporter has reasonable cause to suspect or believe that a child has been abused or neglected.

What Is Suspected Abuse?

Under Colorado law – abuse” or “child abuse or neglect”, means an act or omission in one of the following categories that threatens the health or welfare of a child: Any case in which a child exhibits evidence of skin bruising, bleeding, malnutrition, failure to thrive, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma, soft tissue swelling, or death and either: Such condition or death is not justifiably explained: the history given concerning such condition is at variance with the degree or type of such condition or death; or the circumstances indicate that such condition may not be the product of an accidental occurrence:

Other Colorado Bills In 2013 Expand The List Even Further… to :

…persons registered as a psychologist candidate, marriage and family therapist candidate, or licensed professional counselor candidate are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

and to:

….emergency medical service providers to the list of persons who must report possible instances of child abuse.

Colorado Mandatory Reporting Laws for Suspected Child Abuse And Neglect 19-3-304 –  Reasoning Behind Adding Sports Related Professionals

….is stated in the Legislative Purpose of the Law – the change in the law is fundamentally based on the trusting relationships that children have with coaches and program personnel.

Here is the Legislative Purpose behind the addition of Sports personnel:

(A) While public and private school officials and employees, including athletic program personnel, are currently required to report suspected child abuse in Colorado, many children today participate in private sports organization activities that are not administered by public or private schools;

(b) Some of these private children’s sports programs involve extensive participation by children in the evenings and on weekends, with time commitments for practice and competitions that are even more extensive than for school-based programs;

(c) There is empirical evidence that child predators are frequently drawn to situations where they have access to children, and, as with other activities that involve extensive participation by children, youth sports programs may inadvertently provide easy access for these child predators;

(d) It is vital that persons employed by sports organizations or programs have a legal duty to report any suspicion of or observation of child abuse or neglect, including unlawful sexual behavior, on the part of an employee of the organization or program or a participant in the program;

(e) Through consistent supervision and observation, the directors, coaches, and athletic trainers in these private sports programs build trusting relationships with children and are in a unique position to notice signs of suspected child abuse or neglect;

(f) Further, because of these trusting relationships with coaches and program personnel, coaches and program personnel are in a position to hear from children about situations of child abuse or neglect, including unlawful sexual behavior, and may be the only persons in whom the child confides;

(g) Coaches and personnel who hear of this abuse or neglect or who have reasonable cause to suspect that such abuse and neglect is taking place should have a legal duty to report to the appropriate authorities in the best interests of the child; and

(h) Several states have recently strengthened successful mandatory reporting laws by enacting legislation that specifically requires reporting by private children’s sports programs.

(3) Therefore, the generally assembly declares that in order to protect children from harm, it is in the best interests of the children of Colorado to include directors, coaches, assistant coaches, and other athletic program personnel of private sports organizations as mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect.

H. Michael’s Take

Extending Colorado’s Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect laws to sports professionals makes sense. Colorado’s love affair with family sports provides many opportunities for these professionals to spot and report real child abuse. NO ONE wants children to suffer at the hands of child abusers and this law goes a long way to protecting children. If you have questions about Colorado Mandatory Reporting for Child Abuse and Neglect issues – please call.

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