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Field Instruction in Mandated Reporting Laws for Abuse and Neglect

Published October 2014

by Cynthia H. Dickman, MSW
University of Washington
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Abstract: The excitement social work graduates experience in finding initial employment or paid practice speaks to their confidence in applying social work knowledge, values, and skills toward social justice. However, an area of expertise that may cause anxiety and temper that confidence is graduates’ vague comprehension of legal mandates to report suspected abuse or neglect. It is imperative that schools and colleges of social work assume responsibility for preparing students for this aspect of social service. Students may attempt to fill the gaps in their knowledge with their own biases, in terms of their subjective experiences and culture. Evidence of over-reporting or under-reporting of some ethnic or social groups exposes the slant of professionals’ perceptions and perspectives in reporting. Social work field instruction in this area of practice could contribute to mitigating the impact of bias and privilege in the social work profession, while increasing graduates’ confidence to address a disclosure or observation of abuse or neglect. In order to achieve these goals, the University of Washington School of Social Work included in its introductory course on field education specific instruction on mandated reporting of neglect and abuse.

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