The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has issued a revised policy on “Mandated Reporters Failure to Report” providing a mechanism for on-line reporting as an alternative to telephonic reporting. The new policy, following a year long pilot, provides a welcome alternative to long waits on hold which callers can experience.
Specifically, revised policy 22-1-3 permits on-line reporting in “non-emergent” situations. Unfortunately, DCF did not define “non-emergent,” but it appears to be intended for situations in which the child is not believed to be at ongoing risk of abuse or neglect. While there is a safe-harbor of sorts if it is later learned the situation was emergent, this does not appear to apply to situations where the mandated reporter should have know at the time of the on-line report that the situation was in fact emergent. Given the lack of a definition of what is emergent, and the possibility of a failure to report claim if with 20/20 hindsight DCF believes the reporter should have know the situation was emergent, caution suggests the on-line option should only be used where it is clear because of the nature of the incident the child is not at risk for ongoing abuse or neglect.