Are you a mandatory reporter? What should you be looking for?

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Alabama's mandatory reporting law casts a wide net of people who fall under the category of mandated reporters.  Officials at the National Children's Advocacy Center (NCAC) said it's important for people to know that if they work with children, they should consider themselves a mandated reporter.

In a case where child abuse is suspected, or a child reports the abuse, any person considered a mandated reporter should alert local law enforcement and the Department of Human Resources (DHR).

"The law does not require that you have proof of the abuse, the law requires that you just make a good faith effort to report the information," explained Pam Clasgens.

Clasgens is the NCAC Community Awareness and Prevention Director. She said almost anyone who works with children is considered a mandated reporter.

"It's a very large category of people, so it includes not only members of the clergy but also people who work in medical settings, people who work in educational settings, so both private and public schools," she said.

Clasgens said mandated reporters should look for significant changes in children's behavior or emotional demeanor.

"Anything that's sudden, a drop in grades, withdrawal, any sign that the child perhaps is involved in drugs or alcohol," she explained. "If a child doesn't want to be around an adult or older child that they have previously enjoyed being around in the past, those all could be signs."

Clasgens said it's very difficult for children to talk about abuse, and that should be kept in mind when approaching a child about it.

"Most children don't tell. And they may not tell the first time they're asked, so having that open communication with a child is very important," she said.

Mandated reporters who fail to alert the proper authorities could be found guilty of a misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to six months imprisonment or a fine of not more than $500.

For more resources from the NCAC you can visit their website here.

You can find a link to mandated reporter training through DHR here.