Child protective service agencies received a national estimate of 4.1 million child abuse referrals in 2017, involving approximately 7.5 million children.
Would you know what to do if you suspected a child in your Sunday school was being abused?
The sentencing of five employees at a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, arrested for a two-week delay in notifying authorities of sexual abuse allegations, serves as a stark reminder of the importance of complying with state mandatory child abuse reporting laws.
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. While statutes vary by state, most mandatory child abuse reporting laws require an immediate report by telephone once a mandatory reporter has reasonable suspicion to believe abuse has occurred. The call needs to be followed up within a specified time period (typically 24 to 48 hours) by a written report.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act provides the existing definition of child abuse and neglect as, at a minimum:
Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
Mandatory child abuse reporting laws, and how they impact church workers, vary by state. Information on abuse reporting may be found on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For help with reporting child abuse and neglect or to speak with a counselor, contact Childhelp at 1–800-422-4453.
[LINK TO CHILD WELFARE INFORMATION GATEWAY: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/can/]
Of course, reporting abuse to authorities is only possible when those who work with children are trained to recognize the signs of abuse. Shepherd’s Watch® has compiled a list of abuse symptoms for your use when training staff. Download here.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month! When we work together to prevent abuse, or to intervene when we suspect a child is being abused, we keep kids and ministry safe!
– – Taken from a recent Shepherd’s Watch newsletter. Sign up today for Shepherd’s Watch Background Checks and receive your free monthly newsletter filled with advice and tips on keeping your church safe.
(We love to provide tips to keep your ministry safe. You may also want to consult your local legal advisors to get their perspective on this topic!)