It’s Your Job to Protect Children

November 10, 2011 by

In light of the current Penn State child abuse controversy—and ensuing riot—churches should be reminded of their responsibility. In most states, clergy are mandated reporters. That means it’s not just their duty, but it’s the law, to report suspected child abuse to the proper authorities.

Each state has different laws and each church should have their own policy. You should have a clearly established plan for protecting minors, including screening staff and volunteers, training and mandated reporting. Everyone should know how it works and who is responsible, from staff members to volunteers to parents.

Mandated reporting is about protecting children. It’s not your responsibility to figure out if abuse is actually happening or to worry about what will happen if you report. That’s the role of your state’s child welfare department. If you see evidence of abuse, you report it. Child welfare officials can sort out if a child just fell down the stairs or if abuse is happening. In most cases reporting is confidential as well. The best approach (and in some states the legal requirement) is to report directly to your local child welfare office. You don’t rely on your superiors in a corporate org chart to sort out the situation. Churches should also consider taking their plans above and beyond the minimum state requirements.

This isn’t about just complying with the law, it’s about protecting children.

That’s the real failure of Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. While it appears he may have technically complied with the law (and Pennsylvania lawmakers are now acting to close that loophole), he wasn’t acting to protect children. And that’s what really matters.

If you want to be crass about it, this is a marketing issue. Churches have a poor reputation in this area and that’s all the more reason to make sure we’re going above and beyond what the law requires. We need to restore our reputation and more importantly we need to be doing the right thing to protect children.

Church Safety
has a number of resources to help your church establish safety policies.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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