During one of our church services, someone submitted a prayer request card describing a situation that may involve child abuse. How should we respond to this situation and any future ones like it?
The first thing to do is carefully read the prayer request card to determine whether the situation is described with sufficient specificity to evaluate under the relevant child abuse statutes. Does the card identify the child or sufficient facts to identify the child? Does it describe a current situation or one that occurred years ago? Does it describe circumstances in detail sufficient to evaluate as potential child abuse? If the prayer request fails any one of these questions, then the church should contact the requestor for more information to determine the answers.
Assuming the church has sufficient information, the next thing to do is evaluate your state’s mandatory child abuse reporting law. This will help you determine what constitutes a legally required report of child abuse or neglect and who the law says is a required reporter. The top priority is to determine whether the person who read the card is a mandatory reporter. Generally, if someone is a mandatory reporter, the report must be made very quickly. Time is of the essence.