Mandatory reporting between legal requirements and personal interpretations: Community healthcare professionals' reporting of child maltreatment.
Abstract Background Healthcare professionals working at community-based services have a crucial position in raising concerns about possible child maltreatment. Yet, barriers exist to healthcare professionals adhering to mandatory reporting rules and regulations. Objective The current study investigated the various forms by which healthcare professionals working in community services manage mandatory reporting, their reasoning and experience with formal requirements. The study has utilized the decision-making-ecology model as a conceptual framework. Participants and setting The study was carried out in the largest district of the largest health-management organization in Israel, across fourteen sites located at seven cities. Eighteen healthcare professionals of various occupational groups participated in in-depth semi-structured interviews. Results The results reveal that out of the of 52 recent cases that have been suspected for possible child maltreatment, only 58 % were reported as legally required. Yet, about half were reported in delay. Practitioners were more likely to report after additional evidence accumulated and increased the level of suspicion or after failing to manage the issue by other means of support. The analysis identified multiple factors that combined to impact the decision-making regarding reporting. Those were clustered around the individual case, healthcare professional, organizational setting, and external context. Conclusions Our results emphasize the importance of workplace-environmental conditions in promoting optimal reporting behaviors, including working in multi-disciplinary teams, availability of rapid expert consultation, provision of emotional-support, and reciprocal exchange of information with child-protection-services.