There is more than a little confusion about the responsibilities of clergy related to reporting suspected child abuse. As the senior chaplain for the Simi Valley Police Department, I assembled this document for clergy in Simi Valley, CA. Note this information relates specifically to California law, and to Ventura County, Simi Valley, CA. You can make the proper adjustments for your area.
Bottom-line: clergy have a moral and legal responsibility to report suspected child abuse. Do the right thing!
Clergy and Mandated Reporting for Child Abuse—Quick Facts
California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act was amended in 1997 to add members of the clergy to the list of mandated reporters. The Act further mandates that “any custodian of records of a clergy member” must report suspected child abuse. The reporting requirements and protections for clergy members are identical to the requirements and protections for other mandated reporters, except for the provision exempting suspicions of child maltreatment acquired during a “penitential communication” from the mandate to report. However, “Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to modify or limit a clergy member’s duty to report known or suspected child abuse or neglect when the clergy member is acting in some other capacity that would otherwise make the clergy member a mandated reporter” (PC 11166 (d) (2)).
What Must be Reported
Any of the following acts involving anyone under the age of 18:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
The mandated reporter must only have reasonable suspicion that a child has been mistreated; no evidence or proof is required prior to making a report. The case will be further investigated by law enforcement and/or child welfare services.
How to Report
The best way is by phone immediately, or as soon as possible to either Child Protective Services or the Simi Valley Police Department
Ventura County Child Protective Services (805) 654-3200
Simi Valley Police Department (805) 583-6950
- The report may be made in writing by completing State Form 8572 http://ag.ca.gov/childabuse/pdf/ss_8572.pdf and sent, faxed or submitted electronically within 36 hours.
- The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CARNA) states that the name of the mandated reported is strictly confidential, although it is provided to investigative parties working on the case
- As long as the reporter filed in good faith, a mandated reporter cannot be held liable in civil or criminal court
- Failure to report concerns of child abuse or neglect is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable in California by six months in jail and/or up to $1000 fine.
Two resources that provide more information for clergy as mandated reporters
An online training course for clergy offered by the California Department of Social Services