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"I Can't Promise Not to Tell"

Youth workers have ethical and legal duties they must fulfill.

"I Can't Promise Not to Tell"

Most teens struggling with a problem aren't going to set up a formal counseling appointment. Instead, they might drop hints during a group discussion or approach you quietly after youth group. Some might share what's troubling them only if you promise you won't tell their parents or anyone else.

That's a dangerous—if not impossible—promise to keep.

Most states have laws requiring certain professionals, such as doctors, teachers, and police, to alert authorities if they suspect that a child is being abused physically, sexually, or emotionally. In many states, these laws extend to pastors, childcare providers, and youth workers. "If you're a mandated reporter and fail to comply, you place yourself, your ministry, and its leadership in jeopardy," authors Rich Van Pelt and Jim Hancock write in The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis. ...

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