On July 1, 2012 new requirements became effective in Georgia concerning mandatory reporting of child abuse by certain people. Previously, the act only applied to medical personnel, psychologists, social workers, counselors, law enforcement personnel, child service organization personnel and school teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors. With this new legislation, the list was expanded to include nurse’s aides, members of the clergy, and personnel, employees, and volunteers at schools, social agencies, hospitals, reproductive health care facilities, and pregnancy resource centers.
Under this statute, if a person who falls under the above categories has a reasonable cause to believe that a child has been abused, he or she must report the suspected abuse. Failure to report such suspected abuse could lead to the individual’s criminal prosecution.
If the individual is a volunteer or employee at a hospital, school, social agency, or other similar facility, he or she can fulfill this legal obligation by reporting the suspected child abuse to the person in charge of that facility. All other individuals required to report must file a report by telephone or in writing with their local DFCS office, police authority, or district attorney. These reports should be made within 24 hours of learning of the suspected abuse in order to ensure the safety of the child. Individuals required to report such abuse must do so even if the suspicion stems from information that is considered privileged or confidential.
Under this statute, child abuse means:
- Physical injury or death inflicted upon a child by a parent or caretaker thereof by other than accidental means. However, physical forms of discipline may be used as long as there is no physical injury to the child;
- Neglect or exploitation of a child by a parent or caretaker thereof;
- Sexual abuse of a child; or
- Sexual exploitation of a child
Individuals must also report any failure of a parent or caregiver to ensure that the child is properly supervised, fed, clothed, or housed.
This statute was intended to ensure “that mandatory reporting will cause the protective services of the state to be brought to bear on the situation in an effort to prevent abuses, to protect and enhance the welfare of children, and to preserve family life whenever possible.” In discussing the new additions to the statute, Representative Penny House stated, “We need to let Georgians know about these key changes because each individual has a moral obligation to report if they know a child is being abused. It is also important that everyone knows what constitutes child abuse. Child abuse is not just physical and sexual abuse; in fact, most cases that are reported in Georgia involve child neglect. Together we can make a difference and help these children.”
If you have further questions regarding Georgia’s mandatory child abuse reporting, please contact the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum. Our dedicated team understands the many hardships involved in these situations. We will work with you to answer all questions that you may have and to ensure the safety of the child involved.