Child Abuse Reporting Laws
50-State Child Abuse Reporting Laws Survey for Clergy and Church Leaders
The following report was most recently updated in July of 2019. For each state, readers will find the following points of information (numbers in brackets refer to sections in the relevant statute):
State and Statute: State name and the reference to the state's statute related to abuse reporting, including its year of enactment and the most recent year involving amendments affecting it.
What Is Reportable "Abuse": A brief, general summary of the state's definition of reportable abuse—but note that most every state provides more specifics in its statute.
Mandatory Reporters: Excerpts of the state's statute pertaining to mandatory reporters that are most relevant to churches and church leaders.
How and Where to Report: The method(s) a mandatory reporter must use to make a report and the agency/agencies to contact (Editor's Note: When specifically referenced by a statute, the state's phone hotlines and/or online reporting forms are noted—but consult with legal counsel and the state to ensure such methods fulfill a mandatory reporter's reporting duty.)
Timeline to Report: The time period within which a mandatory reporter must make a report of actual or reasonably suspected abuse.
Clergy Privilege: What language, if any, the state provides regarding the implications of the clergy-penitent privilege to mandatory reporting requirements.
Penalty for Knowingly Failing to Report: The criminal sanctions a state may impose on a mandatory reporter who fails to meet his or her reporting obligation.
Civil Liability for Failure to Report Recognized? Whether a state, either through statute or judicial decision, recognizes a victim's right to sue an adult who was a mandatory reporter and allegedly failed to meet his or her reporting duty, resulting in injury to the victim.
Immunity for Inaccurate Report: What protections from civil and/or criminal proceedings a state provides to a mandatory reporter who files a report that is later determined to be unsubstantiated or inaccurate.
Disclosure of Mandated Reporter’s Identity: The state's statute pertaining to confidentiality and/or disclosure requirements of a mandatory reporter's identity.
In addition, this report contains an appendix providing key phone hotlines and online information pertaining to child-abuse reporting for each state.
Based on work originally created by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., and Senior Editor, Christianity Today's Church Law & Tax Team
Report reviewed and updated by Matthew J.C. Branaugh, Editor, Christianity Today's Church Law & Tax Team
Special thanks to Michaela Micco, research assistant/paralegal, and Dennis Watkins, Legal Counsel, from the Church of God denomination (Cleveland, Tennessee) for their assistance with updating this report.
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Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.