In all states any person concerned for the welfare or safety of a child can voluntarily file a report with Child Protective Services (CPS). You do not have to be in a professional relationship with a family to contact CPS or police on behalf of a child.
All professionals and volunteers who work with minors are mandated reporters. That is, with the exception of members of clergy. The term ‘clergy’ includes ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, or similar functionaries, by whatever name called, of a bona fide religious organization.
Therefore, if a pedophile confesses to raping a 9 year old, the religious leader is not obligated to report it! That is, if the clergyman is a part of a legitimate religious organization and their doctrine states that keeping a confession confidential takes precedence over the safety of an innocent child.
Who are mandated reporters?
- Health care providers
- Mental health providers
- Crisis counselors
- School personnel
- Social workers
- Day care providers
- Law enforcement personnel
- In some states additional professionals now include:
- Commercial film developers
- Substance abuse counselors
- Domestic violence professionals
- Court-appointed special advocates (CASA)
Fortunately, 26 states have revised their reporting laws to now include clergy as mandatory reporters. In those states a faith leader’s knowledge of child abuse (of any kind) can no longer be considered privileged or confidential information.
As for the other 24 states and its religious leaders, under certain circumstances reporting a molested child is… well…optional.
How does your state measure up?
In Georgia, here’s how the law makes it optional for clergy to report child abuse.
State of Georgia: Current Through April 2019 Citation: Ann. Code § 19-7-5 A member of the clergy shall not be required to report child abuse reported solely within the context of confession or other similar communication required to be kept confidential under church doctrine or practice. When a clergy member receives information about child abuse from any other source, the clergy member shall comply with the reporting requirements of this code section, even though the clergy member may have also received a report of child abuse from the confession of the perpetrator.
Essentially, in Georgia, if the priest/bishop/pastor overheard a conversation at the bake-sale that little Johnny was sexually assaulted by his stepfather, the pastor is required to report it. But, the pastor already knew about it because the step-dad mentioned it in confession months ago.
The priest/bishop/pastor chose not to report it to authorities the first time because the information was divulged during a confidential confession, which [by law] isn’t mandatory to report. Guess we’d just have to keep our fingers crossed that it’d be reported the second time around. Meanwhile, little Johnny endured an additional six months of abuse because a trusted adult made a conscious decision to keep it ‘confidential’.
To read the specific mandatory reporting statute for your state, consult https://www.childwelfare.gov
What are your thoughts?