What Is Child Abuse?
Under Virginia law, a person commits child abuse if they assault or beat a child. This includes physical, sexual, and sometimes psychological abuse. Furthermore, a parent or any adult who stands in loco parentis—Latin for “in place of the parent”—and neglects a child such that the child suffers injury or is placed in serious risk to their safety and welfare may be liable for committing child abuse.
The consequences of child abuse can be very severe, ranging from criminal punishment to civil or administrative penalties. Such penalties include liability for damages and having one’s children removed from their custody.
Virginia Mandatory Reporting Laws
In general, a person standing in loco parentis with respect to a child is obligated to take certain steps to ensure the child’s safety and wellbeing. Of course, the parents of a child have a legal duty to protect their children from certain harms. However, someone who has assumed the responsibility of caring for a child in the absence of the child’s actual parents or guardians, will be held to the same duties as a parent.
The duty to take reasonable steps to ensure that a child is free from abuse may include the duty to inform law enforcement authorities about possible instances of child abuse. This duty is triggered after a responsible adult has witnessed facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that child abuse has occurred.
Under Virginia Code § 22.1-291.3, teachers and other school employees are required to report suspected child abuse. Furthermore, school employees are immune from civil or criminal liability for making reports that turn to be inaccurate, unless they made the report with reckless disregard for its truth or falsity, or for some malicious purpose—such as getting the alleged abuser into trouble.
Other than teachers and school staff, there are other jobs where a person is required to report suspected child abuse.
According to Virginia Code § 63.2-1509, you are required to report child abuse if you occupy one of the following professions:
- “any person licensed to practice medicine or any of the healing arts;
- any hospital resident or intern, and any person employed in the nursing profession;
- any person employed as a social worker or family-services specialist;
- any probation officer;
- any teacher or other person employed in a public or private school, kindergarten or nursery school;
- any person providing full-time or part-time child care for pay on a regularly planned basis;
- any mental health professional;
- any law-enforcement officer or animal control officer;
- any mediator eligible to receive court referrals pursuant to…;
- any professional staff person, not previously enumerated, employed by a private or state-operated hospital, institution, or facility to which children have been committed or where children have been placed for care and treatment;
- any person 18 years of age or older associated with or employed by any public or private organization responsible for the care, custody, or control of children;
- any person who is designated a court-appointed special advocate…;
- any person 18 years of age or older who has received training approved by the Department of Social Services for the purposes of recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect;
- any person employed by a local department…who determines eligibility for public assistance;
- any emergency medical services provider certified by the Board of Health …, unless such provider immediately reports the matter directly to the attending physician at the hospital to which the child is transported, who shall make such report forthwith;
- any athletic coach, director, or other person 18 years of age or older employed by or volunteering with a private sports organization or team;
- any administrators or employees 18 years of age or older of public or private day camps, youth centers, and youth recreation programs; and
- any person employed by a public or private institution of higher education other than an attorney who is employed by a public or private institution of higher education as it relates to information gained in the course of providing legal representation to a client.”
Need Legal Representation? The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller Can Help
Adults who assume the responsibility for a child’s wellbeing have a legal duty to report child abuse. To better understand the nature of this duty, you should consult a skilled lawyer from The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller. Our legal team has years of experience handling various legal issues in connection with Virginia family law, including mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse.