Who must report?
In North Dakota, anyone may report suspected child abuse or neglect to Child Protection Services (CPS). However, certain professionals must, by law, report suspected child abuse or neglect—in other words, they are mandated reporters. It’s a Class B misdemeanor when a mandated reporter chooses not to report suspected abuse. To fulfill the mandate, reports must be made directly to a county social service agency.
Mandated reporters include:
- dental hygienists
- medical examiners or coroners
- any other medical or mental health professionals
- religious practitioners of the healing arts
- school teachers, administrators, and counselors
- addiction counselors
- social workers
- childcare professionals
- foster parents
- police or law enforcement officers
- juvenile court personnel
- probation officers
- juvenile services employees
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Childcare providers see children regularly and are in a good position to spot the warning signs of abuse or neglect. For this reason, childcare providers are mandated reporters. A childcare worker may be the only person who steps forward to protect a child’s best interests.
County Child Protection social workers may contact childcare providers for information about a specific child, or may interview a child at the childcare facility. The provider must cooperate fully with these proceedings. Under North Dakota law, there is no civil or criminal liability for honest, good-faith reporting or answers to social workers’ questions.
The law says that an assessment of any report of child abuse or neglect may include assessment of a childcare facility attended by the child, as well as the circumstances surrounding the report. The social worker may visit the child in the childcare setting as part of an assessment.
When the subject of the report operates or works in a childcare setting, the parents of children in the childcare may be given the subject’s name, the decision of the assessment, and a brief description of the abuse or neglect concerns, whether or not the abuse or neglect occurred in the childcare. The childcare provider may be required to help notify the parents.
When law enforcement is contacted concerning a child abuse and neglect report, their agency is considered the lead for coordination and planning. The law requires coordination and cooperation between law enforcement and social services to avoid duplication of efforts and multiple interviews.
Since the death of a child at the hands of their caregiver represents the most extreme form of child maltreatment, Law enforcement must report all child deaths related to caregiver actions or inactions, regardless of:
- any legal charges
- manner of death as listed on the child’s death certificate
- how many children remain at home
- subject’s death
North Dakota Century Code Section 27-20-13 states that law enforcement may take a child into custody:
- If there is a court order to do so
- If the laws of arrest are followed
- If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child is suffering from illness or injury or is in immediate danger from his surroundings
- If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the child has run away from his parents or guardian
- If it is ordered to do so by the Director of Juvenile Court
Schools are the primary places where children are seen every day by trained professionals who can observe their appearance and behavior. For this reason, educators are mandated reporters. A teacher or principal may be the only person who steps forward to protect the child’s best interests.
Child Protection social workers may contact an educator for information about a specific child, and the educator should cooperate fully. Under North Dakota law, there is no civil or criminal liability for honest, good-faith reporting or answers to social workers’ questions.
The law says that Child Protection Services and law enforcement may conduct interviews of children on school property and must notify the school principal or other administrator of the intent to do so. The school administrator may not disclose the nature of the notification or any related information to any person, including a parent.
All medical professionals are mandated reporters. North Dakota Century Code Section 50-25.1-10 states that doctor-patient privilege does not apply in cases of abuse or neglect and does not exempt doctors from reporting. The child’s medical records supporting the suspicion of abuse or neglect should be included as part of the report.
Medical professionals must report:
- Any reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect
- Parents or guardians who fail to provide needed health care treatment, if their failure creates a significant risk of danger, illness, or developmental delays for the child
- Infants who are affected by illegal substance abuse, have withdrawal symptoms from prenatal drug exposure, or have been identified as having Fetal Alcohol Spectrum disorder
- The withholding of medically indicated treatment for disabled infants who have life-threatening conditions when, in the physician's reasonable medical judgment, providing the treatment (including appropriate nutrition, hydration, and medication) will likely help or correct the infant’s life-threatening conditions
A report is NOT needed when:
- The infant is chronically and irreversibly comatose; or
- Providing treatment:
- Would merely prolong dying; or
- Would not help or correct all of the infant's life-threatening conditions; or
- Would not help prevent the infant’s death; or
- Would be not only futile but inhumane to the infant
Medical professionals may:
- Take photographs and x-rays and perform other medical tests without the consent of the parent or guardian, and provide the results of those procedures to the social service agency
- Keep the child in the custody of the hospital or medical facility for up to 96 hours (4 days) after reporting, but must notify the social service agency and the juvenile court in order to start child protection proceedings
Reporting pregnant women and substance exposed newborns
Federal law requires notification to child welfare for all substance exposed newborns. The law also requires child welfare to address the needs of infants born with and identified as being affected by alcohol and all use of controlled substances, not just those that are illegal, withdrawl symptoms or a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Notification to CPS is completed through the mandated reporting process.
Notification of a substance-exposed newborn should be made when:
- Substance use during pregnancy is identified (whether reported or not at the time)
- Toxicology testing shows the newborn was prenatally exposed to substances
- The newborn demonstrates symptoms related to substance exposure (whether from legal, prescribed substances or illegal substances)
- The mother reports or acknowledges use of substances for a non-medical purpose during pregnancy
Under North Dakota law, the parents of a substance-exposed newborn will be offered a choice about the type of assessment that will result from the report. If the parent agrees to work with the agency and participate in substance abuse treatment services, developing a plan of safe care for their infant and addressing the health and safety needs of the infant as well as their own health and substance use treatment needs, the infant will remain in the home with the parents, the CPS worker will make referrals for treatment and health services for the parent and infant while the infant remains in the home with support services and safety monitoring.
Pregnant women to be reported include:
- Mothers who use substances while pregnant and are not engaged in treatment or continue to use while in treatment
- Mothers who abuse alcohol during pregnancy (abuse of alcohol as defined in the current edition of the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders"
- Mothers who are receiving prescribed opiates and/or Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) and when the infant suffers from withdrawal (notification takes the form of a 960)
If a pregnant woman has complications that indicate possible use of a controlled substance for a nonmedical purpose, a medical professional must administer a toxicology test to her within eight hours after delivery, either with the woman’s consent, or if a specimen is otherwise available, without consent.
- If the test results are positive: report under NDCC Section 50-25.1-03.1.
- If the test results are negative: the medical professional may still report if there are other reasons to believe that the woman has used a controlled substance for a non-medical purpose.
The physician must also administer a toxicology test to the newborn infant to determine exposure to a controlled substance before birth. This can be done without the consent of the child's parents or guardian.
- If the test results are positive: report under NDCC Section 50-25.1-03.
- If the test results are negative: the medical professional may still report if there is other evidence of prenatal exposure to a controlled substance.
Medical personnel administering these tests are immune from civil or criminal liability for doing so if they are administered in good faith and according to established medical practice and protocol.
Clergy such as priests or pastors aren’t required to report suspected abuse or neglect if they learn about it during time spent as a spiritual advisor to the parent or child.
However, if they learn about the abuse in any other role—for example, if they observe it or hear about it while acting as a school principal or youth advisor—they are required to report it.
People who practice the healing arts, such as shamans or medicine men or women, are required to report abuse when they learn about it while acting in this role.