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Researchers' Roles as Mandated Reporters

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Researchers' Roles as Mandated Reporters

The DHHS Office for Human Research Protection defines minors as a vulnerable population and requires special considerations to be made when they are enrolled in human subject research protocols. For information regarding federal requirements and UIUC policies, refer to the OPRS/IRB Policy Manual.

One issue that may arise when minors are enrolled in a study is mandated reporting. This information may come during data collection due to questions researchers ask or from disclosure by the minor. Regardless, the incident must be reported to the appropriate authorities. Per the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, mandated reporters are required to report suspected child maltreatment immediately when they have “reasonable cause to believe” that a child known to them in their professional or official capacity may be an abused or neglected child. The Act identifies employees of higher education as mandated reporters.

Consent Issues

As part of the consent process, research participants should be aware of and understand researchers’ mandated reporting responsibilities. Mandated reporting language should be included on relevant informed consent document(s). Research participants should be informed about specific situations where the researchers are mandated to report to the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS), clearly understand that these situations represent exceptions to confidentiality that may have been otherwise promised, and understand the associated risks mandated reporting presents to the research participants. An example of approved mandated reporting language follows:

  • If you disclose actual or suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a child, the research or members of the study staff wil reports the information Child Protective Services, Adult Protective Services, and/or a law enforcement agency.

If child assent is being sought, the written form or verbal script should also include appropriate language addressing the mandated reporting responsibility of the research team.

How to Report 

Mandated reporters are required to call the hotline when they have reasonable cause to believe that a child may be abused or neglected.

Illinois Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-25-ABUSE (1-800-252-2873)

The hotline operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Reporters should be prepared to provide phone numbers where they may be reached throughout the day in the event the hotline must call back for more information. The Illinois DCFS will then intervene when certain reporting conditions are met.

Criteria needed for a child abuse or neglect investigation:

  • The alleged victim is under the age of 18
  • The alleged perpetrator is a parent, guardian, relative, caregiver, school teacher, any person living in the home, etc.
  • There is a specific incident of abuse or neglect or a specific set of circumstances involving suspected abuse or neglect
  • There is demonstrated harm to the child or a substantial risk of physical or sexual injury to the child

Definitions of Abuse (Illinois ANCRA Law and DCFS Manual for Mandated Reporters)

Physical abuse includes physical injury (burns, bites, fractures, bruises), choking, excessive corporal punishment.

Sexual abuse includes sexual penetration of any kind, molestation, sexual exploitation for profit.

Neglect occurs when a person responsible for the child deprives or fails to provide the child with adequate food, supervision, clothing, shelter, or needed medical treatment.

Elder Abuse and Neglect

Researchers should follow their professional code of ethics if they suspect an elderly research subject (age 65 or older) is being abused or neglected. The Illinois Department on Aging provides information about the Illinois Elder Abuse and Neglect Act and related laws.

Resources

DCFS Manual for Mandated Reporters (DCFS Children's Justice Task Force)

Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act

Child Abuse and Neglect Mandatory Reporting, UIUC, Office of Legal Counsel

Protection of Minors, UIUC University Human Resources

Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

Elder Abuse and Neglect Act and Related Laws (State of Illinois Department on Aging)