1-04 Mandatory Reporters and Abuse Reporting Laws

SECTIONS ON THIS PAGE

  • Research Sources for State Laws on Mandatory Reporters and Clergy “Penitent Privilege” (Confidentiality)
  • RAINN State Law Database on Mandatory Reporting and Clergy as Mandatory Reporters
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway on Mandatory Reporting and Clergy as Mandatory Reporters

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Research Sources for State Laws on Mandatory Reporters

and Clergy “Penitent Privilege” (Confidentiality)

There are two main research sources to access comprehensive, state-by-state legal information about mandatory reporting laws in general (including for child abuse), clergy mandatory reporting laws specifically, and related issues. They are:

Both organizations offer some similar information, but in different formats. So, check out each of these to see which works better for the type of research you want to do. (Note also that both sites periodically update their databases with the most recent legal code information, but there is a lag time from when states update their legal codes after their legislative session ends.)

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RAINN State Law Database on Mandatory Reporting

and Clergy as Mandatory Reporters

The RAINN State Law Database offers information in the following topics:

  1. Rape and Sexual Assault Crime Definitions.
  2. Consent – determining consent.
  3. Mandatory Reporting – known or suspected abuse (1) of children, (2) of elderly or disabled.
  4. Criminal Statutes of Limitations.
  5. Termination of Rapists’ Parental Rights – limits on rapists’ parental rights.
  6. Confidentiality Laws – confidentiality protections.
  7. HIV/AIDS Testing of Sex Offenders – HIV/AIDS testing requirements.

For more details, plus instructions on how to research topics on that site, see the section on RAINN State Law Database on page 1-01 Child Abuse, Neglect, and Sexual Abuse.

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When and how you’re required to contact the authorities. ~ RAINN

The RAINN State Law Database is located at the top of the Public Policy & Action page. It gives you three options for accessing data. Note: In the case of the Mandatory Reporting topic, various options give different amounts of information and use a different format — especially if you are comparing several states/territories — so you may want to experiment to see which option works best for your need.

Option #1. Laws in Your State — enter your state (D.C., or territory) or zip code, then hit enter, or click on “Find Your State.”

Option #2. US Map — click on your state, D.C., or territory.

Option #3. Compare States — click on the link below the “Laws in Your State” state/zip code box.

Please take note of the legal disclaimer and permission policy at the bottom of each state/territory page, and adhere to the requirements.

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Researching Laws and Definitions/Descriptions for a Single State, D.C., or Territory

Option #1 (Laws in Your State) and Option #2 (US Map) will take you to the information for a single state, the District of Columbia, or US territory (Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands). There you will find links to details on on seven questions about Mandatory Reporting – known or suspected abuse of children.

  1. Who is required to report?
  2. When is a report required and where does it go?
  3. What definitions are important to know?
  4. What timing and procedural requirements apply to reports?
  5. What information must a report include?
  6. Anything else I should know?
  7. Statutory citation(s).

This detailed information gives you a checklist for whether you as an individual or your institution have done due diligence to comply with local abuse reporting laws in a complete, correct, and timely way. If it has not yet been done, the individual(s) responsible need to do so!

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State Law Report Generator: Comparing Laws for Multiple Entities on the Same Topics

Option #3 (Compare States) takes you to a page with two search engines: (1) the State Law Report Generator (at the top of the page) and (2) the State Laws by Topic search (in the mid-section of the page).

(1) The State Law Report Generator allows you compare a set of legislative entities and topics.

  • Pick up to three states or territories or the District of Columbia — and up to two of the eight topics available (see the seven-point list above, with Mandatory Reporting having two topics instead of one).
  • Click “Submit.”
  • A chart appears, with the questions on the left and side-by-side answers of the chosen legislative entities in columns to the right.

I selected two or three states on just the one topic of “Mandatory Reporting: Children.” The chart included the same seven questions as Options #1 and #2:

  1. Who is required to report?
  2. When is a report required and where does it go?
  3. What definitions are important to know?
  4. What timing and procedural requirements apply to reports?
  5. What information must a report include?
  6. Anything else I should know?
  7. Statutory citation(s).

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(2) The State Laws by Topic list allows you to search a separate database that compares Mandatory Reporting: Children. For best results, I would suggest setting the “Show Entries” box at the top to 100 (not 50). That will let you see a line for each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands — 54 lines in all.

Click on the “+” sign to expand the entry to see detailed information on three questions. (Note that this is not as detailed as the questions covered in the State Law Report Generator above.)

  • Who is required to report? This bullet list gives various types of people and their occupations who are required by state law to report known/suspected sexual abuse.
  • What timing and procedural requirements apply to reports? This is important to note, because state legal codes may require that the person who knows/suspects/witnesses abuse is the only one able to file the report and it cannot be passed off to a supervisor or assigned to a subordinate. Also, states may have time limits, such as within 24 hours of finding out about a situation of abuse.
  • Statutory Citation(s) gives the penal code location numbers for the specific state laws. (Copy-and-paste the line with the law code numbers and state into your search engine to locate the full text of the law.)

Click on the “-” minus sign to collapse a state’s data. (You can leave multiple boxes open simultaneously, if desired.)

This approach has the advantage of being able to switch quickly among various legislative entities to reflect on big-picture patterns, or other research questions that require looking at a larger (or entire) range of US data rather than just one state, or up to three states.

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Child Welfare Information Gateway

on Mandatory Reporting and Clergy as Mandatory Reporters

Child Welfare Information Gateway is provided as a service by the Children’s Bureau and the Administration for Children and Families of the US Department of Health and Human Services. It gives the option of accessing a page under the State Resources tab that lists state-by-state laws solely on clergy as mandatory reporters of known/suspected sexual abuse. To get there, first go to that State Statutes Search page.

  • Section #1 – SELECT A STATE – Click on one state, or use Control + click for multiple states, or click the All States option. (It seems to work better to select one or a few states.)
  • Section #2 – SELECT A TOPIC – In the Child Abuse and Neglect sub-section, click the checkbox for Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect, and/or for Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect.
  • Section #3 – BEGIN YOUR SEARCH – Click GO!

The results will show the state’s legal statues citations on mandatory reporters, whether or not there is clergy mandatory reporting law, and details on any clergy/congregant confidentiality.

If you selected multiple states/territories, the information appears in a complete “chunk” for one legislative entity, then for the next — not side-by-side as with the RAINN State Law Report Generator.

To locate the full text of the law, try this: Copy-and-paste the line with the law code numbers and state into your search engine. It should work to find the full text in that state’s or territory’s legal code, but may not work due to abbreviations, out-of-date information, etc.

Also available from Child Welfare Information Gateway are several PDF documents dealing with mandatory reporting issues:

Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect. Definitions of child abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse. It also includes sections on standards of reporting, persons responsible for the child, exceptions, and state-by-state listings of relevant laws (state statutes current as of April 2016).

Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect. Professionals and other person required to report abuse/neglect, institutional responsibility to report, standards for making a report, privileged communication issues, including the reporter’s name and disclosure of identity, and state-by-state listing of laws (state statutes current as of August 2015).

Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect. Introduction, privileged communications, and state-by-state listing of laws (state statutes current as of August 2015). Especially note the important comparison chart on page 3 that categorizes how each state deals with the combination of clergy mandatory reporting and “clergy penitent privilege.” This is where there MAY be specific categories of communications between clergy members and congregants that are covered by confidentiality. Find out the specifics from the laws in particular states, as claiming a “penitent privilege” is not necessarily a defense for failure to report child abuse.

Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect, with state statutes current as of August 2015.

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Reporting of known/suspected crimes is an ethical obligation for all in ministry workers, regardless of whether your state has a clergy mandatory reporting law or not.

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