Protecting Our Children: Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect in the DMV: Part 1

Mandatory Reporting in the District of Columbia

In the wake of the Notre Dame sexual abuse scandal and the Freeh report, state and federal lawmakers have been debating how best to protect our children from sexual predators and other abuse. Here at Hartel, DeSantis & Howie, LLP we feel that it is important to review the currently laws on mandatory reporting in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Our first review will focus on the District of Columbia:

Currently, under D.C. Code § 4-1321.02, the following individuals and groups have a statutory duty to report suspected child abuse and neglect:

  • Child and Family Services Agency employees, agents, and contractors
  • Physicians, psychologists, medical examiners, dentists, chiropractors, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or persons involved in the care and treatment of patients
  • Law enforcement officers or humane officer of any agency charged with the enforcement of animal cruelty laws
  • School officials, teachers, or athletic coaches
  • Department of Parks and Recreation employees, public housing resident managers, social service workers, or daycare workers
  • Human trafficking counselors
  • Domestic violence counselors or mental health professionals

Under D.C. Ann. Code § 4-1321.02, any other person who knows or has reason to suspect that a child is being abused or neglected may report but are not required to report the suspected abuse.

Notably, D.C. law may soon be changing. While current D.C. law does not require every adult to report abuse, the D.C. Council recently passed and the mayor recently signed an amendment to the D.C. code section that will require any adult that suspects sexual abuse to report it (unless the adult is a “priest, clergyman, rabbi, or other duly appointed, licensed, ordained, or consecrated minister” and his/her knowledge is based on confession or penitential communication).

The text of the new law is here: http://dcclims1.dccouncil.us/images/00001/20130103102730.pdf

The law was transmitted for Congressional review on February 16, 2013 and Congress has 30 days to review it. So, it will likely become law (absent Congressional objections) around April 22, 2013.

By Deborah E. Kane | Published April 11, 2013