Child Abuse Reporting Laws for District of Columbia

State and Statute: District of Columbia, Code §§ 4-1321.01 et seq.

What Is Reportable “Abuse”: Physical, sexual, or mental abuse, or negligent treatment or maltreatment, by a parent, guardian, or custodian. [4-1321.02(a)] and [§ 16-2301(23)]

Mandatory Reporters: “Persons required to report such abuse or neglect shall include … school official, teacher, athletic coach, … social service worker, day care worker … domestic violence counselor … and mental health professional.” [4-1321.02(b)]

How and Where to Report: Oral report to the Metropolitan Police Department or the Child and Family Services Agency. Written report required if requested by authorities. [4-1321.02(a) and 4-1321.03]

Timeline to Report: Immediately. [4-1321.02(a)]

Clergy Privilege: For reporting sexual abuse of a minor:

“The notification requirements … do not apply to a priest, clergyman, rabbi, or other duly appointed, licensed, ordained, or consecrated minister of a given religion in the District of Columbia, or a duly accredited practitioner of Christian Science in the District of Columbia, if the basis for the knowledge or belief is the result of a confession or penitential communication made by a penitent directly to the minister if:

(i) The penitent made the confession or penitential communication in confidence;
(ii) The confession or penitential communication was made expressly for a spiritual or religious purpose;
(iii) The penitent made the confession or penitential communication to the minister in the minister’s professional capacity; and
(iv) The confession or penitential communication was made in the course of discipline enjoined by the church or other religious body to which the minister belongs.

“(B) A confession or communication made under any other circumstances does not fall under this exemption.” [22-3020.52]

For all other forms of child abuse:

“Neither the spouse or domestic partner privilege nor the physician-patient privilege shall be grounds for excluding evidence in any proceeding…concerning the welfare of a neglected child.” [4-1321.05]

“Notwithstanding any other provision of this subchapter, no child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof shall, for that reason alone, be considered to have been neglected within the purview of this subchapter.” [4-1321.06]

Penalty for Knowingly Failing to Report: Fines range from $100 to $125,000, depending on the length of the prison sentence for the punishable offense, or imprisonment for not more than 180 days, or both. The fine is $250,000 if the child dies. All fines double for organizations that fail to report. [22-3571.01] and [4-1321.07]

Civil Liability for Failure to Report Recognized? No statute recognizes civil liability. Consult with legal counsel to ensure no recent court decisions in the District of Columbia have recognized civil liability.

Immunity for Inaccurate Report: “Any person … or institution participating in good faith in the making of a report pursuant to this subchapter shall have immunity from liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed with respect to the making of the report. … In all civil or criminal proceedings concerning the child or resulting from the report good faith shall be presumed unless rebutted.” [4-1321.04]

Disclosure of Mandatory Reporter’s Identity: Reporter’s identity not disclosed unless staff first receive reporter’s permission. [4-1302.03(d)] Statutory notice to alleged reporter does not include reporter’s identity. [4-1302.05(b)(2)] Statutory disclosure related to child fatality or child near-fatality does not include reporter’s identity. [4-1303.32(E)]

Additional Information for District of Columbia

All information provided here was most recently verified in March of 2023.

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