Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role


Second Advisor

Cheryl-Anne Cait

Advisor Role


Third Advisor

Susan Drummond

Advisor Role



Mandatory reporting, although originally enacted to serve the single purpose of protecting vulnerable children from abuse, has been considered for ever expanding purposes. As a policy stance, mandatory reporting is frequently considered to support those socially sanctioned behavioural standards developed to regulate social institutions such as marriage, child rearing, aging and work. Although always embracing an inherent element of protection, a careful balance must be negotiated because mandatory reporting obligations also risk compromising the very rights that are the cornerstones of the social work profession, those of autonomy, confidentiality and self-determination. This research explored the mandatory reporting protocol specifically questioning whether mandatory reporting policies can be designed to be fair and equitable. With a structuration framework and a constructivist grounded theory methodology the consequences of mandatory reporting obligations were analyzed. Individual interviews and focus groups provided a diverse range of perspectives from 50 respondents. The resultant implications and complexities form the policy analysis framework that has been developed to ensure that future mandatory reporting obligations are ethical and respectful in both their application and impact. At a time in history when personal safety and security face increased challenges, society is caught in a dilemma of balancing the need for increased community protection with the desire to honour individual human rights. Findings suggest that although simple and inexpensive to implement, without the necessary planning and resources mandatory reporting policies risk relegating vulnerable populations further into the margins.

Convocation Year