Nebraska proposal would require fewer people to report suspected child abuse

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — Nebraska law currently requires everyone to report suspected child abuse or neglect, regardless of profession.

Any adult can face criminal charges if they don’t raise an alarm.

But a new bill at the State Capitol would change that, requiring fewer people to do so.

“This policy not only fails to improve child safety; it creates problems,” Sen. Terrell McKinney said. “Nebraska’s over-reporting rates are very high, with an average of 94% of reports in the last five years not meeting our abuse or neglect definitions.”

So McKinney introduced LB 271, which he said would reduce high case loads for social workers.

The Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the bill on Wednesday.

If it passes, only certain professionals who regularly interact with children would be required to report abuse or neglect.

That includes medical and mental health professionals, school and child care employees, and law enforcement.

The measure says everyone else can still report their suspicions; they just won’t face criminal charges if they decide not to.

SEE ALSO: Where is the line between child abuse and independence? Nebraska considers changes

But those in opposition said this could be more harmful than helpful.

“What is abundantly clear is that these children and all children in Nebraska need as many people and systems working in their favor as possible,” said Dara Delehant with the Nebraska County Attorneys Association. “As it is, child abuse, and especially child sexual assault, is absolutely underreported.”

LB 271 would also clear up how these obligations apply to both employees and employers.

All required professionals will need to undergo training on how to identify abuse, in addition to courses on implicit bias and cultural competency.

The Department of Health and Human Services would be in charge of providing a free, online version of the mandatory training.

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