Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on the mandatory reporting of child abuse.

Clergy as Mandated Reporters


This Ready Reference is a product of the Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Series prepared by the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information. The Clearinghouse is a service of the Children's Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Ready Reference publications contain excerpts of text with citations from specific sections of each State's code that focus on a single issue of special interest. While every attempt has been made to be as complete as possible, additional information on these topics may be in other sections of a State's code as well as in agency regulations, case law, and informal practices and procedures.

Electronic copies of this publication may be downloaded from the Clearinghouse Web site, located on the Internet at the URL listed below. To purchase print copies of this publication or for more information about the Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Series, contact the Clearinghouse at:

National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, 330 C Street, SW, Washington, DC 20447, 800-FYI-3366 or statutes@calib.com or www.calib.com/nccanch We welcome your comments and suggestions about this publication.

Ready Reference publications present compilations of State statutes citations and text on subjects of special interest. They are intended to provide easy access to information on issues that are part of one or more of the Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Compendium of Laws. Legal references are current as of March 2002. The citations for Reporting Laws: Clergy as Mandated Reporters are drawn from the following title in the Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Compendium of Laws: Reporting Laws: Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Clergy's Responsibility to Report

A mandatory reporter is a person who is required to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. Every State and the District of Columbia have statutes identifying mandatory reporters of child maltreatment and specifying under what circumstances they are to report.

Approximately1 13 States (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) currently include members of the clergy among those professionals specifically mandated by those States' reporting laws to report known or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect. In approximately 18 States (Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming2), any person who suspects child abuse or neglect is required to report. That broad language appears on its face to include clergy as well as anyone else but it is possible that the term has been interpreted otherwise.

Privileged Communications

As a doctrine of some faiths, clergy have an obligation to maintain the confidentiality of pastoral communications. Mandatory reporting statutes in some States specify when a communication is privileged. "Privileged communications" is a legal term for the statutory recognition of the right to maintain the confidentiality of communications between certain persons such as professionals and their clients or patients. Privileged communications may be exempt from the reporting laws. The privilege of maintaining this confidentiality under State law must be provided by statute3, and most States do provide the privilege in statute, typically in rules of evidence or civil procedure.4 If the issue of privilege is not addressed in the reporting laws summarized here, it does not mean that privilege is not granted; it may be granted in other parts of State statutes.

This privilege, however, is not absolute. While clergy-penitent privilege is frequently recognized within the reporting laws, it is typically interpreted narrowly in the child abuse or neglect context, and the circumstances under which it is allowed varies from State to State, or in some States, is denied altogether. For example, among the States that enumerate clergy as mandated reporters, New Hampshire and West Virginia deny the clergy-penitent privilege in cases of child abuse or neglect. Three of the States that enumerate "any person" as a mandated reporter (North Carolina, Rhode Island and Texas), also deny clergy-penitent privilege in child abuse cases.

In States where neither clergy nor "any person" are enumerated as mandated reporters, it is less clear whether clergy are included as mandated reporters within other broad categories of professionals who work with children. For example, Louisiana includes clergy among "mental health/social services practitioners" as mandated reporters, but excludes information given in "confession or sacred communication." However, in Missouri, South Carolina, and Washington, clergy are not enumerated as mandated reporters, but the clergy-penitent privilege is affirmed within the reporting laws.

The chart below summarizes how States have or have not addressed the issue of clergy as mandated reporters (either specifically or as part of a broad category) and/or clergy-penitent privilege (either limiting or denying the privilege) within their reporting laws:

Privilege granted but limited to "pastoral communications" Privilege denied in cases of suspected child abuse or neglect Privilege not addressed in the reporting laws Clergy enumerated as mandated reporters Arizona, California, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania New Hampshire, West Virginia Connecticut, Mississippi Clergy not enumerated as mandated reporters but may be included with "any person" designation Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Utah, Wyoming North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas Indiana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee

Neither clergy nor "any person" enumerated as mandated reporters Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Washington5 Not applicable Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin

Clergy as Mandated Reporters Law by State

Arizona

Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 13-3620(A)-(B) (West, WESTLAW through 1999 1st Reg.Sess. & 2nd Sp. Sess.) Any…clergyman or priest…whose observation…of any minor discloses reasonable grounds to believe that a minor is or has been the victim of injury, sexual abuse, …sexual assault, molestation of a child, …incest or child prostitution, death, abuse, or physical neglect…shall immediately report or cause a report to be made…. A clergyman or priest who has received a confidential communication or confession in that person's role as a clergyman or priest in the course of the discipline enjoined by the church to which the clergyman or priest belongs may withhold reporting of the communication or confession if the clergyman or priest determines that is reasonable and necessary within the concepts of the religion. The exemption applies only to the communication or confession and not to the personal observations of the clergyman or priest may otherwise make of the minor.

California

Cal. Penal Code § 11165.7(a)(32) (West, WESTLAW through 2002 Reg. Sess. & 3rd Ex. Sess.) A mandated reporter is defined as any of the following: A clergy member, as specified in § 11166(c). As used in this article, "clergy member" means a priest, minister, rabbi, religious practitioner, or similar functionary of a church, temple, or recognized denomination or organization. Cal. Penal Code § 11166(c) (West, WESTLAW through 2002 Reg. Sess. & 3rd Ex. Sess.) A clergy member who acquires knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse during a penitential communication is not subject to the requirement to make a report. For the purposes of this subdivision, "penitential communication" means a communication, intended to be in confidence, including, but not limited to, a sacramental confession, made to a clergy member who, in the course of the discipline or practice of his or her church, denomination, or organization, is authorized or accustomed to hear those communications, and under the discipline, tenets, customs, or practices of his or her church, denomination, or organization, has a duty to keep those communications secret. Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to modify or limit a clergy member's duty to report known or suspected child abuse when a clergy member is acting in some other capacity that would otherwise make the clergy member a mandated reporter.

Connecticut

Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 17a-101(b) (West, WESTLAW through 1-1-02) The following persons shall be mandated reporters: clergymen.

Delaware
Code Ann. tit. 16, § 903 (WESTLAW through 1999 1st Spec. Sess.) Any other person who knows or in good faith suspects child abuse or neglect shall make a report in accordance with § 904 of this title. Del. Code Ann. tit. 16, § 909 (Supp. 1998) No legally recognized privilege, except that between attorney and client and that between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession, shall apply to situations involving known or suspected child abuse, neglect, exploitation, or abandonment and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required or to give or accept evidence in any judicial proceeding relating to child abuse or neglect.

Florida

Fla. Stat. Ann. § 39.201(1) (West, WESTLAW through End of 2001 1st Reg. Sess.) Any person… who knows, or has reasonable cause to suspect, that a child is abused, abandoned, or neglected by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child's welfare shall report such knowledge or suspicion to the department. Fla. Stat. Ann. § 39.204 (West, WESTLAW through End of 2001 1st Reg. Sess.) The privileged quality of communications between husband and wife and between any professional person and his or her patient or client, or any other privileged communications except that between attorney and client or the privilege provided by § 90.505 [providing for the confidentiality of communications made to a clergy member for the purpose of spiritual counsel], as such communication relates both to the competency of the witness and to the exclusion of confidential communications, shall not apply to any communication involving the perpetrator or alleged perpetrator in any situation involving known or suspected child abuse, abandonment or neglect, and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by the reporting laws regardless of the source of information requiring the report, failure to cooperate with the Department, or failure to give evidence in any judicial proceeding relating to child abuse, abandonment, or neglect.

Idaho

Idaho Code § 16-1619(a), (c) (Supp. 1998) Any …other person having reason to believe that a child…has been abused, abandoned, or neglected…shall report or cause a report to be made within 24 hours…. The notification requirements do not apply to a duly ordained minister of religion, with regard to any confession or confidential communication made to him in his ecclesiastical capacity in the course of discipline enjoined by the church to which he belongs if:

* The church qualifies as tax-exempt under Federal statute;

* The confession or confidential communication was made directly to the duly ordained minister of religion; and

* The confession or confidential communication was made in the manner and context which places the duly ordained minister specifically and strictly under a level of confidentiality that is considered inviolate by canon law or church doctrine.

A confession or confidential communication made under any other circumstances does fall under this exemption.

Kentucky

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 620.030(1) (Michie Supp. 1998) Any person who knows or has reasonable cause to believe that a child is dependent, neglected or abused shall immediately cause an oral or written report to be made… Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 620.050(2) (Michie Supp. 1998) Neither the husband-wife nor any professional-client/patient privilege, except the attorney-client and clergy-penitent privilege, shall be ground for refusing to report, or for excluding evidence regarding a dependant, neglected or abused child thereof, in any judicial proceedings resulting from a report.

Louisiana

La. Children's Code art. 603(13)(b) (West, WESTLAW through all 2001 Reg. & Ex. Sess. Acts) "Mental health/social service practitioner" is any individual who provides mental health or social service diagnosis, assessment, counseling, or treatment, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, marriage or family counselor, social worker, aide, or other individual who provides counseling services to a child or his family. However, when a priest, rabbi, duly ordained minister, or Christian Science practitioner has acquired knowledge of abuse or neglect from a person during a confession or other sacred communication, he shall encourage that person to report but shall not be a mandatory reporter of that information given in confession or sacred communication.

Maine

Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 22, § 4011-A(1)(A)(27) (West, WESTLAW through 2001 1 st Reg. Sess.) The following adult persons shall immediately report or cause a report to be made to the Department when the person knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected: A clergy member acquiring the information as a result of clerical professional work, except for information received during confidential communications.

Maryland

Md. Code Ann. Fam. Law § 5-705(a)(1), (a)(3) (Lexis, WESTLAW through 2000 Reg. Sess.) Except as provided below, notwithstanding any other provision of law, including a law on privileged communications, a person other than a health practitioner, police officer, or educator or human service worker who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect shall…notify the local department of the appropriate law enforcement agency. A minister of the gospel, clergyman, or priest of an established church of any denomination is not required to provide notice [when they have reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect] if the notice would disclose matter in relation to any communication that is protected by the clergy-penitent privilege and:

Minnesota

Minn. Stat. Ann. § 626.556, Subd. 3(a) (West, WESTLAW through End of 2001 1st Sp. Sess.) A person who knows or has reason to believe a child is being neglected or physically or sexually abused…shall immediately report the information to the local welfare agency, agency responsible for assessing or investigating the report, police department, or the county sheriff if the person is …employed as a member of the clergy and received the information while engaged in ministerial duties, provided that a member of clergy is not required to report information that is otherwise privileged under § 595.02(1)(c) [pertaining to clergy-penitent privilege].

Mississippi

Miss. Code Ann. § 43-21-353(1) (WESTLAW through End of 2001 2nd Ex. Sess.) Any…minister…having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child, shall cause an oral report to be made immediately by telephone or otherwise and followed as soon thereafter as possible by a report in writing to the Department of Human Services….

Missouri

Mo. Ann. Stat. § 210.140 (West, WESTLAW through End of 2001 1st Reg. Sess. &1 st Ex. Sess.) Any legally recognized privileged communication, except that between attorney and client, or involving communications made to a minister or clergyman, shall not apply to situations involving known or suspected child abuse or neglect and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required or permitted, to cooperate with the division in any of its activities, or to give or accept evidence in any judicial proceeding relating to child abuse or neglect.

Montana

Mont. Code Ann. § 41-3-201(2)(h), (4)(b) (WESTLAW through 2001 Reg. Sess.) Professionals and officials required to report [include]: a member of the clergy. A clergyperson or priest is not required to report under this section if:

A clergyperson or priest is not required to make a report under this section if the communication is required to be confidential by canon law, church doctrine, or established church practice.

Nevada

Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 432B.220(3)(d) (WESTLAW through 2001 Reg. Sess. & 17th Spec. Sess.) A report must be made by a clergyman, practitioner of Christian Science or religious healer, unless he has acquired the knowledge of the abuse or neglect from the offender during a confession.

New Hampshire

N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 169-C:29 (West, WESTLAW through 2001 Reg. Sess.) A priest, minister, or rabbi having reason to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected shall report the same in accordance with this chapter. N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 169-C:32 (West, WESTLAW through 2001 Reg. Sess.) The privileged quality of communication between husband and wife and any professional person [including a priest, minister, or rabbi] and his patient or client, except that between attorney and client, shall not apply to proceedings instituted pursuant to this chapter and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by this chapter.

North Carolina

N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-301 (West, WESTLAW through 2001 Reg. Sess.) Any person or institution who has cause to suspect that any juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, or has died as the result of maltreatment, shall report the case of that juvenile to the director of the Department of Social Services in the county where the juvenile resides or is found. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-310 (West, WESTLAW through 2000 Reg. Sess.) No privilege shall be grounds for any person or institution failing to report that a juvenile may have been abused, neglected, or dependent, even if the knowledge or suspicion is acquired in an official professional capacity, except when the knowledge is gained by an attorney from that attorney's client during representation only in the abuse, neglect, or dependency case. No privilege, except the attorney-client privilege, shall be grounds for excluding evidence of abuse, neglect, or dependency in any judicial proceeding (civil, criminal, or juvenile) in which a juvenile's abuse, neglect, or dependency is in issue nor in any judicial proceeding resulting from a report submitted under this Article, both as the privilege relates to the competency of the witness and to the exclusion of confidential communications.

North Dakota

N.D. Cent. Code § 50-25.1-03(1) (Supp. 1997) Any…member of the clergy having knowledge of or reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused or neglected, or has died as a result of abuse or neglect, shall report the circumstances to the department if the knowledge or suspicion is derived from information received by that person in that person's official or professional capacity. A member of the clergy, however, is not required to report such circumstances if the knowledge or suspicion is derived from information received in the capacity of a spiritual advisor.

Oregon

Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419B.005(3)(h) (WESTLAW through End of 2001 Reg. Sess. & Cum. Supp.) Public or private official [includes]: Member of the clergy. Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 419B.010(1) (WESTLAW through End of 2001 Reg. Sess. & Cum. Supp.) Any public or private official having reasonable cause to believe that any child with whom the official comes in contact has suffered abuse or that any person with whom the official comes in contact has abused a child shall immediately report or cause a report to be made….Nothing shall affect the duty to report imposed by the reporting laws, except that a psychiatrist, psychologist, member of clergy or attorney shall not be required to report such information communicated by a person if such communication is privileged under §§ 40.225 to 40.295.

Pennsylvania

23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6311(a), (b) (West Supp. 1998) Except with respect to confidential communications made to an ordained member of the clergy which are protected under law relating to confidential communications to clergymen, the privileged communication between any professional person required to report and the patient or client of that person shall not apply to situations involving child abuse and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by this chapter. Enumeration of persons required to report [includes]: member of the clergy.

Rhode Island

R.I. Gen. Laws § 40-11-3(a) (WESTLAW through 2001 Reg. Sess.) Any person who has reasonable cause to know or suspect that any child has been abused or neglected or has been a victim of sexual abuse by another child shall, within 24 hours, transfer that information to the Department….R.I. Gen. Laws § 40-11-11 (1997) The privileged quality of communication between husband and wife and any professional and his or her patient or client, except that between attorney and client, is hereby abrogated in situations involving known or suspected child abuse or neglect and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by this chapter, failure to cooperate with the Department in its activities pursuant to this chapter, or failure to give or accept evidence in any judicial proceeding relating to child abuse or neglect. In any family court proceeding relating to child abuse or neglect, notwithstanding the provisions of other statutes, no privilege of confidentiality may be invoked with respect to any illness, trauma, incompetency, addiction to drugs, or alcoholism of any parent.

South Carolina

S.C. Code Ann. § 20-7-550 (Law. Co-op. Supp. 1998) The privileged quality of communication between husband and wife and any professional person and his patient or client, except for that between an attorney and client and priest and penitent, is abrogated and does not constitute grounds for failure to report, or the exclusion of evidence in a civil protective proceeding resulting from a report.

Texas

Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 261.101 (West, WESTLAW through End of 1999 Reg. Sess.) A person having cause to believe that a child's physical or mental health or welfare has been adversely affected by abuse or neglect by any person shall immediately make a report as provided by this subchapter. The requirement to report under this section applies without exception to an individual whose personal communications may otherwise be privileged, including an attorney, a member of the clergy, a medical practitioner, a social worker, a mental health professional, and an employee of a clinic or health care facility that provides reproductive services.

Utah

Utah Code Ann. § 62-4a-403 (Lexis) WESTLAW through End of 2000 Gen. Sess.) When any person …has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to incest, molestation, sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect, or who observes a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances which would reasonably result in sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect, he shall immediately notify the nearest peace officer, law enforcement agency, or office of the division. The reporting requirements do not apply to a clergyman or priest, without the consent of the person making the confession, with regard to any confession made to him in his professional character in the course of discipline enjoined by the church to which he belongs, if:

When the clergyman or priest receives information about abuse or neglect from any source other than confession of the perpetrator, he is required to give notification on the basis of that information even though he may have also received a report of abuse or neglect from the confession of the perpetrator. Exemption of notification requirements for a clergyman or priest does not exempt a clergyman or priest from any other efforts require by law to prevent further abuse or neglect by the perpetrator.

Washington

Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 26.44.030(7) (West, WESTLAW through 2002 Reg. Sess.) Information considered privileged by statute and not directly related to reports required by this section must not be divulged without a valid written waiver of the privilege. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 26.44.060(1)(a), (3) (West Supp. 1999) Any person participating in good faith in the making of a report pursuant to this chapter or testifying as to alleged child abuse or neglect in a judicial proceeding shall in so doing be immune from any liability arising out of such reporting or testifying under any law of this State. Conduct conforming with reporting requirements shall not be deemed a violation of the confidential communication privilege of §§ 5.60.060 [pertaining to husband-wife, attorney-client, clergy-penitent, and physician-patient privilege], 18.53.200 [pertaining to optometrist-patient privilege], and 18.83.110 [pertaining to psychologist-client privilege].

West Virginia

W. Va. Code Ann. § 49-6A-2 (Lexis, WESTLAW through End of 2001 6th Ex. Sess.) When any …member of the clergy…has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is neglected or abused or observes the child being subjected to conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect, such person shall immediately, and not more than forty-eight hours after suspecting this abuse, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the state department of human services. W. Va. Code Ann. § 49-6A-7 (1996) The privileged quality of communications between husband and wife and between any professional person and his or her patient or client, except that between attorney and client, is hereby abrogated in situations involving suspected or known child abuse or neglect.

Wyoming

Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-3-205(a) (Michie 1997) Any person who knows or has reasonable cause to believe or suspect that a child has been abused or neglected or who observes any child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect, shall immediately report it to the child protective agency or local law enforcement agency or cause a report to be made. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-3-210 (Michie 1997) Evidence regarding a child in any judicial proceeding resulting from a report made pursuant to the reporting laws shall not be excluded on the ground it constitutes a privileged communication:

Between husband and wife;

1 The word approximately is used throughout the State Statutes series to stress the fact that statutes are constantly being revised and updated.

2 Two of these States, Mississippi and New Hampshire, also enumerate clergy as mandated reporters.

3 American Jurisprudence, 2nd Edition, vol. 81, p. 447. Rochester, NY: Lawyers Cooperative Publishing, 1992.

4 The issue of clergy-penitent privilege may also be addressed in case law, which this publication does not cover. For a fuller discussion of the issues, including significant case law, see Karen L. Ross, "Revealing Confidential Secrets: Will It Save Our Children?" 28 Seton Hall Law Review 963 (1998); or J. Michael Keel, "Law and Religion Collide Again: The Priest-Penitent Privilege in Child Abuse Reporting Cases." 28 Cumberland Law Review 681. (1997-1998)

5 Clergy are not mandated reporters in Washington, but if they elect to report, their report and any testimony are provided statutory immunity from liability.

Source: National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information at www.calib.com/nccanch/pubs/readref/mandclergy.cfm or nccanch@calib.com

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