Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse

February 26, 2016  |  CHFS, child abuse

Kentucky law establishes a mandatory duty to report child abuse.  Specifically, KRS 620.030 provides:

          Duty to report dependency, neglect, abuse, or human trafficking -- Husband-wife and professional-client/patient           privileges not grounds for refusal to report -- Exceptions -- Penalties.

          (1) Any person who knows or has reasonable cause to believe that a child is dependent, neglected, or abused shall           immediately cause an oral or written report to be made to a local law enforcement agency or the Department of             Kentucky State Police; the cabinet or its designated representative; the Commonwealth's attorney or the county             attorney;...

Failure to make such a report constitutes a criminal offense and exposes the individual and school district to civil liability.

Kentucky law also provides immunity for good-faith reports.  Under KRS 620.050(1):             

          Immunity for good faith actions or reports -- Investigations -- Confidentiality of reports -- Exceptions -- Parent's             access to records -- Sharing of information by children's advocacy centers -- Confidentiality of interview with                 child -- Exceptions -- Confidentiality of identifying information regarding reporting individual -- Internal review               and report.

          (1) Anyone acting upon reasonable cause in the making of a report or acting under KRS 620.030 to 620.050 in good             faith shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed.

A recent case from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has muddied the waters of immunity.  In Wenk v. O'Reilly, 783 F.3d 585 (6th Cir. 2015) cert. denied sub nom. Schott v. Wenk, No. 15-54, 2016 WL 100828 (U.S. Jan. 11, 2016), the Sixth Circuit held that parents may sue reporters of abuse if they can prove the report was made in retaliation.  This holding may make “mandatory reporters” of child abuse vulnerable to lawsuits by potential abusers.  The Court's decision puts reporters in an untenable position.  Either they can fulfill their responsibility under state law to report suspected or known abuse and risk federal litigation and potential personal liability, or they can fail to report and run the risk of possible civil and criminal penalties for that failure. 

The United States Supreme Court was asked to review the Sixth Circuit's decision.  Last week, the Supreme Court declined to do so, in all probability because the parties to the lawsuit informed the Supreme Court that they had reached a confidential settlement of the lawsuit.

The bottom line of all of this is that when considering the reporting of abuse, it is all the more imperative to consider all of the facts to avoid liability.  When in doubt, consult an attorney.

Know how to report child abuse:

  •          Situations involving immediate danger call 911.
  •          In Kentucky, if you need an immediate response to your report, call the Kentucky Child Protection Hotline toll free 24/7 at 877-KYSAFE1 (877-597-2331). Anonymous calls are accepted.
  •          To report non-emergency situations that do not require an immediate response, you can use the web-based reporting system at 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, except for state holidays. Anonymous reports are accepted.
  •          The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline, staffed with professional counselors, is available 24/7 at 1-800-422-4453, or

Author: Donald J. Ruberg, Esq.