Iowa law requires licensed employees to report to the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) instances of suspected child abuse which they become aware of within the scope of their professional practice.
The law further specifies that a licensed employee 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.
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 liability.
Child Abuse Defined
"Child abuse" is defined 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.
• The commission of a sexual offense with or to a child . . . as a result of the acts or omissions of the person responsible for the child. . . . Sexual offense includes sexual abuse, incest, and sexual exploitation of a minor.
• 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 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 prostitution.
• 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.
• Any mental injury to a child’s intellectual or psychological capacities 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 by a licensed physician or qualified mental health professional as defined by Iowa law.
• An illegal drug is present in a child’s body as a direct and foreseeable consequence of the acts of omissions of the person responsible for the care of the child.
• 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 schools 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.
Mandatory reporters are required to report, either orally or in writing, within twenty-four hours to the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) when the employee reasonably believes a child has suffered from abuse within the scope of employment. Within forty-eight hours of an oral report, a written report must be filed with the DHS.
Each report should contain as much of the following information as can be obtained within the time limit. However, the law specifies a report will be considered valid even if it does not contain all of the information.
• name, age, and home address of the child;
• name and home address of parents, guardians or other persons believed to be responsible for care of the child;
• the child's present whereabouts if not the same as the parent's or other person's home address;
• 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 DHS is responsible to investigate the incident of alleged abuse.
Reviewed: 11-14-94, 11-11-97, 10-11-99, 10-14-02, 10-10-05, 12-15-08, 03-12-12, 12/14/16