Iowa law requires district personnel who are mandatory reporters to report to the Iowa Department of Human Services instances of suspected child abuse which they become aware of within the scope of their professional duties.
The law further specifies that an employee who is a mandatory reporter who knowingly or willfully fails to report a suspected case of child abuse is guilty of a simple misdemeanor and that the licensed employee may be subject to civil liability for damages caused by the failure to report.
Iowa law provides that employees participating in good faith in the making of a report or in a judicial proceeding that may result from the report are immune from civil or criminal liability.
Child Abuse Defined
“Child abuse” is defined under Iowa law as:
- Any non-accidental physical injury, or injury which is at variance with the history given of it, suffered by a child as the result of the acts or omissions of a person responsible for the care of the child.
- Any mental injury to a child's intellectual or psychological capacity as evidenced by an observable and substantial impairment in the child's ability to function within the child's normal range of performance and behavior as the result of the acts or omissions of a person responsible for the care of the child, if the impairment is diagnosed and confirmed by a licensed physician or qualified mental health professional as defined by Iowa law.
- The commission of a sexual offense with or to a child pursuant to Iowa law, as a result of the acts or omissions of the person responsible for the care of the child.
- The failure on the part of a person responsible for the care of a child to provide for the adequate food, shelter, clothing or other care necessary for the child's health and welfare when financially able to do so or when offered financial or other reasonable means to do so. A parent or guardian legitimately practicing religious beliefs who does not provide specified medical treatment for a child for that reason alone shall not be considered abusing the child.
- The acts or omissions of a person responsible for the care of a child which allow, permit, or encourage the child to engage in acts of prostitution.
- An illegal drug is present in a child's body as a direct and foreseeable consequence of the acts or omissions of the person responsible for the care of the child.
- The person responsible for the care of a child has, in the presence of the child, manufactured a dangerous substance, or in the presence of the child possesses a product containing ephedrine, its salts, optical isomers, salts of optical isomers, or pseudoephedrine, its salts, optical isomers, salts of optical isomers, with the intent to use the product as a precursor or an intermediary to a dangerous substance.
- The commission of bestiality in the presence of a minor by a person who resides in a
home with a child, as a result of the acts or omissions of a person responsible for the care of the child.
- Knowingly allowing a person custody or control of, or unsupervised access to a child or minor, after knowing the person is required to register or is on the sex offender registry.
Teachers in public school are not “persons responsible for the care of the child,” under this definition. However, a teacher who abuses a child is subject to civil, criminal, and professional sanctions.
Employees who are mandatory reporters are required to report, either orally or in writing, within twenty-four (24) hours to the Iowa Department of Human Services when, within the scope of their professional duties, the employee reasonably believes a child has suffered from abuse. Within forty-eight (48) hours of an oral report, a written report must be filed with the Iowa Department of Human Services.
Each report should contain as much of the following information as can be obtained within the time limit; however, Iowa law specifies a report will be considered valid even if it does not contain all of the following information:
• name, age, and address of the child;
• name and address of parent(s), guardian(s) or other person(s) believed to be responsible for the care of the child;
• the child’s present whereabouts if different from the parent(s), guardian(s) or other person(s) legally responsible for the child;
• description of injuries, including evidence of previous injuries;
• name, age, and condition of other children in the same home;
• any other information considered helpful; and
• name and address of the person making the report.
It is not the responsibility of employees to prove that a child has been abused or neglected. Employees should not take it upon themselves to investigate the case or contact the family of the child. The Iowa Department of Human Services is responsible to investigate any incident of alleged abuse.