Every state has a child abuse reporting law that requires persons designated as “mandatory reporters” to report known or reasonably suspected incidents of child abuse. It is imperative for ministers to be able to answer the following questions.
What is the definition of reportable “child abuse”?
All 50 states have enacted child abuse reporting statutes in an effort to protect abused children and prevent future abuse. Child abuse is defined by most statutes to include physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and sexual molestation. A child ordinarily is defined as any person under the age of 18 years.
Some states specifically limit the definition of “child abuse” to abuse inflicted by a parent, caretaker, or custodian. Such a statute, if interpreted narrowly, might not require ministers and lay church workers who are mandatory reporters of child abuse under state law to report incidents of abuse inflicted by custodians, associate ministers, adolescents, or volunteer youth workers.