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Iowa Professionals and the Child Abuse Reporting Statute - A Case of Success

NCJ Number
Iowa Law Review Volume: 65 Issue: 5 Dated: (July 1980) Pages: 1273-1385
L E Frischmeyer; D D Ballard
Date Published
113 pages
A survey of four groups of reporters, physicians, registered and practical nurses, and social workers indicates that the Iowa child abuse reporting statutes have achieved the legislative goal of encouraging such reporting.
Four professional groups of mandatory reporters included in the Iowa child abuse reporting statutes were surveyed on their knowledge of the relevant legislation, their willingness to report, their compliance with the statutes' provisions, and their perception of the involvement of the legal system, especially the Juvenile Courts, with child abuse cases. The adequacy of the protective services extended to abused children by the Iowa Department of Social Services was also evaluated. All respondent groups indicated little knowledge of the potential for civil and criminal liability for failure to report child abuse cases, although all groups appeared to be aware of the statutes' provisions for immunity if the failures occurred in good faith. Social workers produced the highest scores on all counts. Physicians and social workers scored higher on statute knowledge than both groups of nurses, possibly because of the former's primary roles in interacting with children compared to the latter's auxiliary tasks. The expressed willingness to report was much higher than the actual willingness, as perceived by the Department of Social Services employees entrusted with investigating all cases of reported child abuse. The Juvenile Courts, and the legal system as a whole, were perceived as reluctant to intervene in child abuse cases. Protective services for abused children need improvement, especially in the numbers and training of staff, because of the potentially tragic consequences of failure to intervene. Reporters' beliefs and opinions (e.g., concern for preserving family ties, fears of retaliation from reported abusers) did not appear to affect compliance with the statutes, which offer many incentives to report, despite the practical and statutory difficulties of identifying abusive situations. The text contains over 500 footnotes, many with bibliographic references.