Mandatory and Permissive Reporters

Washington State law defines two types of reporters of suspected abuse: Mandatory reporters and permissive reporters.

Mandatory Reporters

According to RCW 74.34.020(10), mandatory reporters are:

  • DSHS employees
  • Law enforcement
  • Social workers and professional school personnel
  • Individual providers and operators of a facility
  • Employees of social service, welfare, mental health, home care, home health agencies
  • County coroner or medical examiner
  • Christian Science practitioner
  • Health care providers under RCW 18.130, such as physicians, nurses, and naturopaths, among others

Are you a mandatory reporter? If you are, you must, by law, immediately report the abuse, abandonment, neglect, and financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Mandatory reporters are not required by law to report situations of self-neglect, but DSHS urges mandatory reporters to do so as a way to help vulnerable adults. 
As a mandatory reporter, you must ALSO make a report immediately to law enforcement if you suspect sexual assault and types of physical assault (see RCW 74.34.035). 
The law states that [RCW 74.34.035(4)]: 
“A mandated reporter is not required to report to a law enforcement agency, unless requested by the injured vulnerable adult or his or her legal representative or family member, an incident of physical assault between vulnerable adults that causes minor bodily injury and does not require more than basic first aid, unless:

  1. The injury appears on the back, face, head, neck, chest, breasts, groin, inner thigh, buttock, genital, or anal area;
  2. There is a fracture;
  3. There is a pattern of physical assault between the same vulnerable adults or involving the same vulnerable adults; or
  4. There is an attempt to choke a vulnerable adult.”

The mandatory reporter is still required to report any type of suspected physical abuse to DSHS. APS/RCS is required to make a report to law enforcement for a crime (possible assault).

Mandatory reporters are also required by law to report a death to the local Medical Examiner or Coroner if there is reason to suspect that the death of a vulnerable adult was caused by abuse.

DSHS Employees and Non-DSHS Employees

All DSHS employees are mandatory reporters and must report suspected abuse, abandonment, neglect, or financial exploitation of vulnerable adults during and after normal work hours, evenings, weekends, and holidays (Administrative Policy No. 8.02). 

The law is unclear as to whether mandatory reporters (professionals and providers described in Chapter 74.34.020(10) RCW) must report suspected abuse, abandonment, neglect, or financial exploitation of vulnerable adults when they are not working (outside of work hours).  DSHS encourages all mandatory reporters to make a report to DSHS if he/she has reason to believe, at any time, a vulnerable adult is or has been abused, abandoned, neglected, or financially exploited.

Immunity

A mandatory reporter making a report in good faith is immune from liability resulting from the report or testimony. Reporting or testifying is not a violation of any confidential community privileges [RCW 74.34.050].

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Failure to Report

A person who is required to report and fails to report is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

A person who maliciously, or in bad faith, makes a false report is guilty of a misdemeanor [RCW 74.34.053].

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Permissive Reporters

If you are not a mandatory reporter, then you are a permissive reporter [RCW 74.34.035]. Washington State law encourages persons other than mandatory reporters to make a report when they have reason to believe that abuse, abandonment, neglect, or self-neglect, is, or has, occurred. Persons other than mandatory reporters are called “permissive reporters.”

Confidentiality of Reporter

A reporter's identity is confidential EXCEPT when:

  • There is a judicial proceeding;
  • The reporter consents to the disclosure of his/her identity; or
  • The law requires DSHS to share the information, such as in making a report to law enforcement

See RCW 74.34.035(8).

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When to Report

Immediately make a report when you have reasonable cause to believe that abuse, abandonment, neglect, or financial exploitation occurred to a vulnerable adult.

  1. "Reasonable cause to believe" means it is probable that an incident of abuse, abandonment, neglect, or financial exploitation happened. Probable means that, based on evidence or information readily obtained from various sources, it is likely the incident occurred.
  2. "Reason to suspect" means it is possible that an incident of sexual or physical assault occurred. Possible means that, based on information readily obtained from various sources, the incident could have happened.

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What Information to Give When Making a Report

Sometimes you may have a lot of information; sometimes you may have hardly any information. The more information you can give, the more you assist the vulnerable adult. When making a report, give as much of the following information as you have [RCW 74.34.040]:

  • Name and birth date of the victim
  • Address, telephone
  • Current case manager, if one exists
  • Name of perpetrator
  • Allegation-what is the abuse and what happened
  • Name of alternate decision-maker
  • Other interested individuals

Sometimes people want to make a report anonymously. You are encouraged to leave your name and phone number so that the APS/CRU intake worker can call you back to obtain more information. The additional information you give may be the very information needed to protect the vulnerable adult.

If you are a mandatory reporter, APS/CRU will document your name and phone number, which is proof of your fulfillment of your obligation by law to report the abuse of vulnerable adults. Remember that your name as a reporter is confidential unless:

  • There is a judicial proceeding;
  • You consent to the disclosure of your identity; or
  • The law requires DSHS to share the information, such as in making a report to law enforcement

The APS/CRU intake worker will ask you if you want your keep your identity confidential, or if you give permission for the release of your identity.

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Who to Call

When the Vulnerable Adult Lives in His/Her Own Home

When the vulnerable adult lives in his/her own home or a relative's home, call the local Adult Protective Services intake number in one of six local regions:

Region

Counties

APS Number

TTY Number

Fax Number

1

Spokane, Grant, Okanogan, Adams, Klickitat, Chelan, Douglas, Lincoln, Ferry, Stevens, Whitman, Pend-Oreille, Yakima, Kittitas, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, Asotin

1-800-459-0421

(509) 568-3086

(509) 568-3699

2

Snohomish, Skagit, Island, San Juan, Whatcom, King

1-866-221-4909

1-800-977-5456

(206) 626-5705

3

Thurston, Mason, Lewis, Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Skamania, Clark, Kitsap, Pierce

1-877-734-6277

(360) 664-9469

(360) 664-9103

If you don't know the specific area the vulnerable adult lives in, or you are not sure what number to call, Washington State provides a toll-free number where people are ready to connect you to the correct area. Call

1-866 END HARM (1-866-363-4276)

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