Expanding Abuse Reporting Requirements: Texas, South Carolina, Colorado and National Trends

Counselors in university and camping contexts…

  • Am I a mandatory reporter?
  • If an adult describes having been abused as a child, am I required to report? When?
  • How do expanding reporting requirements impact college and university counselors?
  • How do reporting requirements impact individuals providing spiritual guidance?

Around the country, state legislatures are pursuing aggressive strategies to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse: strengthening criminal penalties, expanding civil statutes of limitations, and requiring deeper and more frequent criminal background checks. With the exception of new requirements for criminal background checks, these changes do not impact the day-to-day operation of camps, colleges, and other organizations providing services to children.

Legislative changes to child abuse reporting statutes, on the other hand, can significantly impact daily operations of these organizations. Leadership must stay abreast of statutory changes in abuse reporting requirements, including:

  • a broader scope of those listed as ‘mandatory reporters’;
  • specific requirements concerning how a report must be made;
  • explicit time limits within which a report must be made;
  • narrowing privileges that limit the necessity of a report, particularly clergy privilege;
  • broadening the types of behaviors to be reported; and
  • heavier penalties for failure to report.

Failure to understand and properly execute these requirements can create serious consequences for child-serving organizations and individual employees or volunteers.

Generally these penalties are misdemeanor charges, although the Florida legislature recently upgraded the penalty to a felony.  Florida’s Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act (2012) provides: colleges and universities that “knowingly and willfully” fail to report suspected child abuse, abandonment or neglect — or prevent another person from doing so — now face fines of up to $1 million for each incident.  Individuals who fail to report abuse and neglect face felony prosecution and fines up to $5,000.

Although every state has criminal penalties for ‘failure to report’, enforcement has dramatically increased post-Penn State.

Adult reports of sexual abuse – situations where an adult reveals sexual abuse or neglect as a child – comprise a significant modification in statutory reporting requirements. Imagine this scenario: ‘Adult One’ receives information from ‘Adult Two’ related to abuse or neglect that ‘Adult Two’ suffered as a child. In Texas, Colorado and South Carolina, this circumstance may give rise to a mandatory report, even though the victim is not a minor at the time of the report. 

For more on mandatory reporting requirements, read the complete article here.