Church Staff, Volunteers Now Mandated Abuse Reporters
Published: August 30, 2012
SMYRNA—As part of the mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect section in the new criminal justice reform act, signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, all employees and volunteers of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and its affiliated companies are defined as mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse, effective July 1, 2012.
Mandatory reporters are required to make a report to the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) or to the appropriate police authority or district attorney immediately, but no more than 24 hours from the time there is reasonable cause to believe a child has been abused.
“It is a good change because it is making people more aware,” said Jennifer Broel, director of Safe Environment for the archdiocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection. “It will help people become more aware of protecting children.”
She pointed out that the 24-hour time period applies whether the report has to be made during the week or on a weekend.
“It is not business hours. It has to be within 24 hours,” Broel said.
The new law defines “child service organization personnel” as persons employed by or volunteering at a business or an organization, whether public, private, for profit, not for profit, or voluntary, that provides care, treatment, education, training, supervision, coaching, counseling, recreational programs, or shelter to children.
Regarding archdiocesan employees, this definition of personnel includes all priests, all deacons, all seminarians, all religious sisters and brothers, all staff and all volunteers. Any employee or volunteer of an archdiocesan parish or school, as well as any archdiocesan-affiliated companies, is included.
Mandatory reporters are required to make a report to the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) … no more than 24 hours from the time there is reasonable cause to believe a child has been abused.
Some specific professions that were also added to the mandatory reporter list as part of the new Georgia law are nurse’s aides and reproductive health care facility or pregnancy resource center personnel and volunteers.
A priest is not required to report child abuse reported solely within the context of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When a priest receives information about child abuse from any other source, the priest is required to comply with the reporting requirements.
The Office of Child and Youth Protection of the Archdiocese of Atlanta hosted a workshop for archdiocesan pastors and parish leaders on Aug. 9, describing the law and the changes it has brought about.
“We have done a workshop for pastors and business managers, with some of them inviting more individuals,” said Broel.
She said that an attorney met with attendees to discuss their new reporting responsibilities and the changes in the law.
“We asked them to communicate this information to their staff and volunteers,” she said.
Additional workshops are scheduled for Sept. 4 at the Chancery.
The Office of Child and Youth Protection has already made the changes to its Safe Environment policies, which may be found on the archdiocesan website. Definitions of mandatory reporters as well as the proper steps to report suspected abuse are included in the sexual abuse policy and code of conduct located on the Office of Child and Youth Protection website.
For more information, please contact the Office of Child and Youth Protection by visiting www.archatl.com/offices/ocyp/ or calling (404) 920-7550.