Mandated reporting laws often are associated with protecting children from abuse, but young people aren’t the only ones protected by these laws. By understanding the mandated reporting laws that apply in your area and training ministry personnel to follow them, you can better protect the people in your ministry.
Work with a locally licensed attorney to learn which behaviors must be reported. Behaviors that may be covered by mandated reporting laws include:
Laws vary as to who is required to report based on the state you live in and the type of dangerous behavior involved.
Regardless of whether an individual is required to report, most states permit an individual to report if he or she has a reasonable belief that abuse has occurred or someone is in imminent danger. If you believe someone is in imminent danger or presents an immediate threat to someone else, call the police.
Reporters may be hesitant to file a report unless they have indisputable evidence of abuse. In many cases, though, such evidence is unavailable, making it difficult for reporters to discern when they should report their suspicions.
Many laws require that mandated reporters file a report when they have “reasonable cause,” or a reason to believe that abuse is occurring. It’s best to evaluate all of the facts, including the context of the situation and the credibility of the parties involved, when determining whether there is reasonable cause to file a report. When in doubt, immediately seek legal advice from a locally licensed attorney—many states require that the report be made within 48 to 72 hours of learning of the suspected abuse. Remember that all states provide protection from legal action if an erroneous report was made in good faith.
Even if the situation does not warrant a report, it’s a good idea to complete and keep on file an incident report describing the accident, the injury, and communications among the involved parties. This report may help protect the church from legal action stemming from the incident. Keep reports confidential and share them only with those who have a "need to know." Sharing information too broadly could lead to a claim of defamation or invasion of privacy.
Ministry leaders, with the help of an attorney, should develop a policy for reporting abuse. Define who is a mandated reporter, the behaviors that warrant a report, and the proper reporting procedures.
Train ministry staff and volunteers to follow this policy. When laws change, update your policy and retrain personnel to correspond with any new requirements.
Thank you for your interest in Brotherhood Mutual. We appreciate the opportunity to provide your church or other ministry with an insurance quote and will reply to your request as soon as possible.
Text to follow...