Posted: Wednesday, May 16th 2012 at 4:21pm
Churches may not be ready to handle mandated abuse reporting
By B.J. Williams Editor
FLOWERY BRANCH - One local child advocacy group says most churches are not prepared to handle the responsibility of a new Georgia law that mandates pastors report child abuse that may surface in their congregations.
Steve Collins with Adults Protecting Children says House Bill 1176, passed in the legislature this year and signed into law recently by Governor Nathan Deal, is going to push churches to address the issue of child sexual abuse, but it's an issue most are not ready to handle adequately.
"It still, unfortunately, is an issue that either is a taboo subject in too many churches or too many churches are just afraid of the issue," said Collins.
He said Protestant churches likely will face the biggest challenge.
"It [HB 1176] will make pastors mandated reporters, which has never happened in the state of Georgia," said Collins.
And, he admits reporting mandates can be complicated, noting that there is an exception to the rule.
"If a pastor receives a confession from an abuser, for example, he can keep that confidential if it is part of the church doctrine and practice, which in most Protestant churches, it is not."
Collins said he does not believe most churches are ready to take on the added responsibility of mandated reporting.
In addition to the responsibility of the pastor, church volunteers will be mandated reporters when the law takes effect July 1.
He said churches fail first to enact policies that will equip volunteers and leaders to protect children from sexual abuse. Then, he said, there is failure to teach those same people how to recognize signs of abuse in children. Also, there is rarely a policy in place to help children once abuse is discovered.
Collins said his group is prepared to work with churches to develop such policies and procedures, and not just because reporting such crime is now the law.
"We ought to be dealing with this issue because we are stewards of children, and we have the opportunity to protect children from being abused or rescue a child who is being abused."
Link: Georgia Churches Reporting Mandates
Link: Safe Kids at Church/Policy and Procedures Guide
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