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Do Psychologists Have a Duty to Report Suspected Child Abuse of a Now-Adult Patient?

psychologist professional licenseUnder Texas law in effect prior to September 1, 2013, a professional who believes that a child has been abused or neglected or is being abused or neglected must report it within 48 hours. But what happens when a mental health professional is treating an adult patient and suspects that the patient was abused or neglected as a child? Does the duty to report still exist? Recent developments provide the answer.

A 2012 opinion of the Texas Attorney General answered that question in the negative. According to the Attorney General, the statutory definition of “child” is clear and unambiguous, and refers to a person who currently satisfies the definition. Therefore, the requirement to report abuse or neglect is not triggered if the patient is currently an adult.

As a result of that opinion, the Texas legislature amended the law to require, as of September 1, 2013, that the abuse or neglect of an adult patient who was a child at the time of the abuse or neglect must be reported under certain circumstances. A report must be made if disclosure is required to protect the health and safety of another child or an elderly or disabled person.

The duty to report applies not only to licensed professionals such as medical practitioners and mental health professionals, but also to attorneys, clergy, social workers, licensing board members and employees, and employees of clinics and health care facilities.

Criminal penalties apply if a professional knowingly fails to report child abuse or neglect as required by law. The offense is generally a Class A misdemeanor, but it is a state jail felony if it is proven that the professional intended to conceal the abuse or neglect.

If you are a licensed medical or mental health professional and you have reason to believe that your license is in jeopardy, you need the help of an experienced professional license attorney. Contact Oscar San Miguel, Attorney at Law, for the assistance you need to defend your professional license.

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