by Susan Dammann RN LAS, Medical Specialist
Recently, while volunteering at a local pregnancy center, I had to report two cases to the county children’s services. Both were cases of statutory rape, including one involving possible domestic abuse.
While it was certainly unusual to have two cases to report in a single morning, we are seeing more and more cases the state mandates our center to report.
Are you a mandatory reporter? Read the two statements from Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect to find out.
Each State has laws requiring certain people to report concerns of child abuse and neglect. While some States require all people to report their concerns, many States identify specific professionals as mandated reporters; these often include social workers, medical and mental health professionals, teachers, and child care providers. Specific procedures are usually established for mandated reporters to make referrals to child protective services.
Approximately 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands designate professions whose members are mandated by law to report child maltreatment. Individuals designated as mandatory reporters typically have frequent contact with children. Such individuals may include:
• Social workers• Teachers, principals, and other school personnel• Physicians, nurses, and other health-care workers• Counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals• Child care providers• Medical examiners or coroners• Law enforcement officers
For up-to-date information on your state’s mandatory reporting requirements, click here. Visit www.ChildWelfare.gov for definitions of child abuse and domestic violence in your state, as well valuable information including listings of mandated reporters and more.
Since your center is equally committed to protecting maternal health and promoting child well-being, you will want to ensure all volunteer and staff members have all the information they need in order to identify and report potential cases of abuse. Mandatory reporter training is typically offered wherever such regulations are enforced, and includes education on who is a mandatory reporter, what information they are required to report, how/to whom the information is required to be reported, as well as issues related to anonymity and immunity.
Simply search “Mandated Reporter Training” along with your state, using a search engine such as Google, to access your state-specific training material.
Material in-hand, consider training your staff using this information, or schedule a special session with an expert in your area. Your center’s investment in this invaluable training could very well make a life-and-death difference in a woman’s life.
While your primary motivation will center around the positive difference your preparedness to identify and report child abuse and neglect can make in a woman’s life, failure to report these incidents—or worse, false reporting of these incidents—constitutes a crime with accompanying penalties in approximately 47 U.S. states and many territories.
See Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect for more information.
Also included in the discussion of mandatory reporting is the concept of privileged communications, which is designed to protect confidential communications between professionals and their clients, with the ultimate goal of providing protection to mistreated minors.
The relevant section on www.ChildWelfare.gov includes the following explanation:
Mandatory reporting statutes also may specify when a communication is privileged. "Privileged communications" is the statutory recognition of the right to maintain confidential communications between professionals and their clients, patients, or congregants. To enable States to provide protection to maltreated children, the reporting laws in most States and territories restrict this privilege for mandated reporters. All but three States and Puerto Rico currently address the issue of privileged communications within their reporting laws, either affirming the privilege or denying it (i.e., not allowing privilege to be grounds for failing to report). For instance:
• The physician-patient and husband-wife privileges are the most common to be denied by States.• The attorney-client privilege is most commonly affirmed.• The clergy-penitent privilege is also widely affirmed, although that privilege usually is limited to confessional communications and, in some States, denied altogether.
One of the most common types of abuse we deal with in pregnancy help organizations of all kinds is statutory rape. A report entitled, "Statutory Rape Laws By State" introduces the topic as follows:
Most states do not refer specifically to statutory rape; instead they use designations such as sexual assault and sexual abuse to identify prohibited activity. Regardless of the designation, these crimes are based on the premise that until a person reaches a certain age, he is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. Thus, instead of including force as a criminal element, theses crimes make it illegal for anyone to engage in sexual intercourse with anyone below a certain age, other than his spouse. The age of consent varies by state, with most states, including Connecticut, setting it at age 16. The age of consent in other states ranges from ages 14 to 18.
Some states base the penalty for violations on the age of the offender, with older offenders receiving harsher penalties. For example, California, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, and New York reserve their harshest statutory rape penalty for offenders who are age 21 or older.
Click here to see the most up-to-date information on state-specific statutory rape laws and mandatory reporting requirements.
For the safety and welfare of your clients, and to be sure you are complying with your state statutes on mandated reporting, Heartbeat International recommends you search out the particular mandates for your state, develop policies and procedures on mandated reporting and schedule an in-service on this topic to insure all staff and volunteers fully understand the issue and comply with the mandates.
Linked here is Pregnancy Decision Health Centers’ policy, which you can use as a template for your center.
Please note: PDHC is in the state of Ohio, and these guidelines may differ in other states. This policy is to be used as a sample only. Please be sure to abide by your state's specific guidelines on all mandatory reporting policies.
Pat Upchurch is President of H.E.L.P. (Helping, Educating/Exhorting & Loving People), based in St. Louis, Missouri.
by Pat Upchurch, H.E.L.P. (Helping, Educating/Exhorting & Loving People)
Do you feel called to serve urban communities? To urban minority people groups? Are you planting a pregnancy center in an urban area? Already serving there? I exhort you with this, from Isaiah 58:12 – “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”
Statistically, African American and Hispanic females have 59 percent of all abortions (while making up only 25 percent of the population). In addition, over 60 percent of Planned Parenthood facilities are in cities with a higher black population than the rest of the state. Planned Parenthood also targets low-income and women of color.
With these facts, it is without a doubt we need to be in these regions, to reach and help those who are targeted. Many are abortion vulnerable/minded, lack sufficient resources, have unhealthy relational structures, and need a relationship with Christ. Jesus himself left a pattern for us in ministry. He could have done anything and every thing to get the “Word” (Himself) to us, but instead He chose to come where we were….”And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14).
It is imperative that we are equipped to serve and minister to people in these urban areas. We must start by understanding the environment and culture of these communities. Stress, for example, while not unique to urban life, is certainly magnified by it. Urban city-dwellers must wrestle with special stressors of stimulus overload, constant change, crowding, noise, pollution, unpredictable transportation, cultural differences, homelessness, drug infestation, crime, gangs, etc. Every day requires constant processing and adjustment.
Equally crucial is understanding urbanites’ mindset and view on relationships, authority, possessions, God, etc. For example, those in poverty see the present as most important. They make decisions in light of the moment, often based on their feelings or need for survival. Their worldview is often limited by their immediate neighborhood. It has been said people living in heavily urban areas fundamentally live their everyday lives within a six square-block radius.
As Christians who desire to bring about positive change in urban areas, our approach must reflect not only our client and cultural training, but our overarching awareness of the unconditional love of God for people created in His image. This sensitivity focuses on strengths, those of both the community and its residents.We have the wonderful privilege to serve, help, and win so many to Christ! Urban communities are ripe mission fields, and opportunities for us to grow in our faith and discipleship.
The better we understand, the better we serve.
H.E.L.P. (Helping, Educating/Exhorting & Loving People) serves pregnancy centers, organizations and churches involved in urban ministry.
I have always been a planner, and the birth of my first child was no exception. I had been married for 7 years, graduated college, and had a high paying job in the IT industry. We had remodeled a bedroom into the perfect nursery, and purchased pretty much every piece of baby equipment sold – we were ready!
After our son was born we felt so fulfilled by our little family that we weren’t really sure if we would have more children. Then 3 years ago, I was laid off from my job. It was also the start of the recession that hit the housing industry hard and my husband’s remodeling business was suffering as well. As a result of the layoff, we not only lost income, but also our health insurance.
It was at this point that we decided we definitely were not going to have any more children. We would not be able to afford it, and we had no medical care. So we sold the crib, gave away the baby clothes we had saved just in case, and instead spent the next years focused on trying to survive a very tough economy.
Last spring, our son was about to turn five and I had plans to enroll in a master’s program in the fall to help me pursue a new career - and I found out I was pregnant. At first I was in denial thinking this isn’t possible, this can’t be right.
Then the denial turned to anxiety. How we could possibly afford a new baby? With no insurance, the hospital bills alone could bankrupt us. I worried about how difficult it would be to go back to school with a newborn and felt dread about “starting over” again; waking up in the middle of the night, hanging diapers, hauling around a stroller. It all seemed overwhelming.
Without a doctor, I didn’t even know where to begin, but I was able to receive a free ultrasound at our local pregnancy help center to determine how far along I was in the pregnancy.
Then she said, “You are pregnant with twins.” I just burst into tears!
The anxiety I felt before the ultrasound turned into complete panic. We couldn’t afford one baby, how could we possibly afford two?
I panicked over what it would be like to carry twins – the chance of medical complications, or having to be on bed rest, perhaps for months. I worried about the likelihood of twins begin born premature and everything that would mean – from extended hospital stays, to astronomical medical bills, to the possibility that a premature birth could lead to a baby with special needs.
I worried about everything. Our house wasn’t big enough, my car wasn’t big enough, I couldn’t possibly go back to school with two newborns. How could we afford cribs, highchairs, car seats, everything times two! Not to mention the cost of diapers alone? There was no way we could have two babies. Without health insurance, it felt irresponsible to do so. I was unsure if we would be able to provide for them, and I knew we could not afford medical care for them.
I was so overwhelmed; my body was shaking, and seeing my distress the volunteer asked if she could pray for me. Then another volunteer came in, and another, and they formed a circle of prayer, and thanked God for the blessings of the babies. But, it did not feel like a blessing to me. It felt like an impossible situation with only one solution.
But I believe it was their prayers led me to the StandUpGirl.com website and what I read convinced me that it was possible and there was another alternative to abortion.
The stories that impacted me the most were from unmarried, teenage girls who hadn’t completed their education. Here I was: 35 years old, college educated, happily married. If these young girls could do it, we could too! I realized that we had to make this work; we had to make a new plan - one that included the lives of our two babies!
On Dec. 12th of 2011, I gave birth to identical twin boys; both very healthy and weighing over 7lbs each. They are a blessing.
StandUpGirl.com and our local pregnancy help center played such an important role in the decision making regarding my pregnancy and I cannot emphasize enough how important I think it is for StandUpGirl.com to list and make available access to the local pregnancy help organization on their home page.
StandUpGirl.com shows us that we can stand up and say “no” to abortion, and the pregnancy help centers provide on the ground support in our own neighborhoods.
At one point it seemed impossible to imagine having twins in our life, but thanks to all the young women who shared their stories on StandUpGirl.com, I could never image our lives without them.
By Angela, devoted mom of 3!
The StandUpGirl Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to providing pregnant adolescent and young adult women with alternatives to abortion. The mission is to change hearts and save lives by educating young women on the development of the unborn child and alternatives to abortion.
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