Dyana Lee


During the past decade physicians, social workers, and the media have sought to inform the American public that many elder adults are being maltreated by in-home caretakers. As a result of articles and reports identifying potentially large numbers of cases, society is slowly accepting the fact that this form of family violence exists. This growing awareness has caused a legislative response which has focused on increasing the reporting of potential abuses. Since 1977, thirty-nine states have enacted legislation providing for the reporting of in-home adult or elder abuse. Seldom has a specific kind of legislation received such popular support and been enacted so quickly. States that have adopted elder abuse legislation have almost uniformly chosen to address the problem by requiring specified professionals to report known or suspected incidents of such abuse. The theory behind these "mandatory reporting" statutes is that the first step in curbing the problem of abuse is to identify its victims. Only a small minority of states provides that such reporting may be done on a voluntary basis." Yet research has shown that the mandatory reporting element of these statutes is not causing increased reporting of abuse, which indicates that the focus on mandatory reporting may be misplaced. In addition, the level of support services accompanying the statutes vary and are often minimal. New York is one of eight states that does not have a statute requiring the reporting of in-home elder abuse, although legislation is currently pending. This Note presents a detailed examination of mandatory reporting statutes and contends that New York should not adopt such legislation. Mandatory reporting statutes are not the best way to reduce elder abuse because their level of effectiveness is not greater than their potential harm to those they seek to help. Instead, the New York State legislature should adopt certain amendments to existing law that will better serve to combat the problem. By doing so, New York can avoid the dangers created by a mandatory reporting statute for elder abuse.

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