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April 17, 2021

4/2/2021 12:43:00 PM
Mandatory reporter expansion embraced by local youth rec group

A bill casting a wider safety net of mandated reporters who are watching out for abused children, garnered major bipartisan support in the state House on a 130 to 3 vote March 24.  

The mandatory reporting of child maltreatment is proposed to be expanded to include youth recreation program employees and officials. Program owners, employees, officials or administrators who are 18 years or older, will become mandated reporters if the bill passes the Senate.

This applies to public or private operations that offer “...services or activities requiring face to face contact with or supervision of children.”

Locally, the Lakes Area Recreation Association youth recreational program is supportive.  

Summer league sign-ups are just coming to a close this week,  and LARA President Wade Clarin tells the Press the 2,000 or so youth the program will serve this season are LARA’s primary concern.

Clarin said he is not aware of the final House language,  but he the measure is something LARA will get behind.
He added, “In addition we will work to provide education and training to all youth coaches and staff on identifying child neglect and maltreatment as well as define avenues for reporting such behavior.”

 The bill lists mandated reporters to include  people who work with youth in sports and arts, and summer camps, etc. They must notify authorities if maltreatment of a minor aged person is suspected.

Chisago County Attorney Janet Reiter describes herself as someone who has spent 20 plus years working with social services to protect children, and said,  “I think this is an excellent advancement in protecting children.”  But, she said the bill could stand some clarification about what constitutes “volunteers” involved with youth organizations and “employees.”  

She observed that implementing the law could pose some gray area, “There may be difficulty in drawing the line between who is a mandated employee of such an organization and who falls into the category of ...one who is encouraged ...but not required” to report.

Viewing the Internet committee discussion at the capitol it was apparent a misperception has existed that mandatory reporting was already all-encompassing and it’s not.  
Existing statute only defines mandatory reporters as:  clergy learning of maltreatment in the course of ministerial duties;  those working in law enforcement, and in the healing arts or providing psychiatric and psychological professional services; child care, education, professional corrections staff, probation staff, and social workers.

County Attorney Reiter said over recent years youth sports especially have evolved to linkage with non-profits and other formats, and have moved away from sports being overseen by public schools.   Youth sports are more frequently enjoyed in club programs and youth now interact with a wider variety of adults than years ago, Reiter noted. This step towards including youth-serving programs will be more reflective of that fact.

There’s a potential that expanding the definition of mandated reporters could also increase caseloads.

The County Attorney added, “Social services may very well see an uptick in the number of maltreatment reports that require assessment of investigation.”

A helpful video is available to reporters who want to learn more, at the Health and Human Services Training site. See mn.gov/people-we-serve/children-and-families/services/child-protection/programs-services/mandated-reporting training-overview.jsp.

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