Washington State Mandatory Reporting Law on Child and Adult Abuse

family with doctor filling formsAs a professional who comes into contact with children and vulnerable adults (state law now considers all patients as vulnerable), you may encounter a situation when a patient discloses information about child abuse and neglect, or abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult. If this information is disclosed during an interpretation assignment, please interpret the information shared word for word to the medical provider. If this disclosure occurs pre- or post-appointment (ex: patient tells you information in the lobby after the appointment is completed), please contact a clinician in the department and give the clinician the information that the patient shared with you. Consult with the staff to follow Swedish policy on adult or child abuse reporting.

Healthcare providers must know how to observe and question if abuse or neglect are present!

Child Abuse and/or Neglect

  • Occurs in all cultures and demographics. 
  • A provider will assess whether there is lack or delay of care, injury consistent with history, injuries not reported, lack of supervision.

Intimate Partner Violence

  • A provider will assess whether they seem afraid of or check in often with their partner, if there are frequent injuries. A provider will ask, “is someone hurting you?” when alone.

Vulnerable Adult/Elder Abuse and/or Neglect

  • A provider will assess for delayed medical care, unusual number of injuries, lack of supervision, unsafe living conditions, and coercion from others.

If you suspect any of the above:

  • Provide a safe environment with a calm, supportive attitude- do not ask the patient or family member/friend directly, allow the provider to assess. 
  • If the patient, or persons with the patient, have shared information or you have observed any concerning behavior before the patient goes into the exam room, please share this information with the provider confidentially. 
  • Notify a provider or staff person of your concerns, but do so in a confidential manner. You may ask to speak to the provider outside the exam room, for example. The provider will then follow specific processes to assess the patient.


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