When do suspicions about a client’s behavior become serious enough to warrant calling the authorities? An employee of Three Rivers Mental Health Solutions in Missoula, Montana is asking herself the same question. The employee was fired after reporting a client’s computer search history for child pornography to police.

The employee, concerned about two children the client babysat, became alarmed after noticing the client’s Web search for “female child nude” and “preteen nude girls.” The mental health worker approached her supervisor to report her concerns, but was advised not to report the client because the situation did not meet the criteria for notifying the authorities. Namely, because no actual child abuse was observed and there were no names or addresses of possible victims, the supervisor said the incident did not warrant calling the police and could be considered engaging in dual roles.

The employee was particularly worried about the safety of the children the client babysat, so she went against her supervisor’s advice and reported the client to police. The client was charged with sexually abusing a child after a DVD of child pornography was found in his home. The employee was consequently fired for her actions.

What do you think about this case? Was this a breach of patient confidentiality? Was the employee right for going to police? Should she have been fired for her actions? How would you have handled this situation?