LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Eric Drew Dell | Feb 12, 2013

Are Georgia school volunteers and clergy required to report child abuse? Yes.

In 2012, Georgia passed a law that expands the list of people mandated to report child abuse. The list now includes members of the clergy and volunteers at various entities including, without limitation, churches and schools. O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5 (b)(5) states, “"Child service organization personnel" means 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."

If you are a volunteer at a hospital, school, social agency, or similar facility that deals with children you must report any suspected abuse of children. A volunteer must report the suspected abuse to the person in charge of the facility, or the designated delegate thereof. Any such report must be made in accordance with the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5.

As noted the mandatory reporters of child abuse now includes the clergy. A member of the clergy, which includes ministers, priests, rabbis, imams, or similar functionaries, by whatever name called, of a bona fide religious organization, shall not be required to report child abuse learned of solely within the context of confession or other similar communication required to be kept confidential under church doctrine or practice. However, when a clergy member receives information about child abuse from any other source, the clergy member must comply with the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 19-7-5 and report the suspected abuse. This applies even if the clergy member also learned of the child abuse from the confession of the perpetrator.

If a volunteer or clergy member knowingly and willfully fails to report a suspected case of child abuse they shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Therefore, if you are a volunteer that deals with children or a member of the clergy, and you have reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused, you must report it immediately.

Additional resources provided by the author

You can find additional information at the Georgia Office of the Child Advocate at http://oca.georgia.gov/mandated-reporter

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