South Carolina law requires that certain professionals report suspected cases of child abuse or neglect, because they have unique opportunities to observe and interact with children. The following professionals are mandated reporters of child abuse or neglect:
- Healthcare professionals: physicians, nurses, dentists, optometrists, medical examiners or coroners or their employees, emergency medical services, mental health or allied health professionals
- Educational professionals: teachers, counselors, principals, school attendance officers
- Social or public assistance professionals: substance abuse treatment staff, childcare workers, foster parents
- Legal professionals: police or law enforcement officers, juvenile justice workers, volunteer non-attorney guardians ad litem serving on behalf of the South Carolina Guardian ad Litem program or on behalf of Richland County CASA, judges
- Undertakers, funeral home directors, or their employees
- Film processors
- Computer technicians
- Clergy, including Christian Science Practitioners or religious healers (subject to laws governing privileged communication)
However, the law encourages all persons to report.
When to Report
Mandated reporters must report abuse or neglect when, in their professional capacity, they receive information giving them reason to believe that a child’s physical or mental health has been, or may be, adversely affected by abuse or neglect. A decision to report must be based upon a reasonable belief that a child has been, or may be, abused or neglected. Thus, mandatory reporters need not have conclusive proof that a child has been abused or neglected prior to reporting abuse or neglect to the proper authorities.
A person who is required to report and fails to do so is guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon conviction, he or she may be fined up to $500 or imprisoned up to six months, or both.
Where to Report
Whether a mandatory reporter makes the report to DSS or to law enforcement depends upon the identity of the alleged perpetrator of the abuse or neglect. When the alleged perpetrator of the abuse or neglect is the child’s parent, guardian, or a person responsible for the child’s welfare, mandated reporters must report to the county DSS office or to Law Enforcement in the county where the child resides or is found.
When the alleged perpetrator of the abuse or neglect is not the child’s parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare, the law requires that a report be made to law enforcement. All law enforcement officers are authorized to place a child in Emergency Protective Custody if the child might be in imminent and substantial danger. However, only the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction where the incident occurred has the authority to conduct an investigation. Mandated reporters who suspect that a child has died as a result of abuse or neglect are required to report to the appropriate medical examiner or coroner.