Senator Saland's Legislation To Require Clergy To Report Suspected Child Abuse Passes The Senate

Stephen M. Saland

June 20, 2005

Senator Steve Saland (R,C Poughkeepsie) today announced that the Senate has passed his legislation (S. 477) making all members of the clergy mandated child abuse reporters. In addition, the bill would require mandated reporters to report more cases of suspected child abuse. Presently mandated reporters are only required to report suspected child abuse by a parent or person legally responsible for a child to the New York State Central Register.

"There is no justification for permitting child sexual predators from avoiding prosecution by hiding behind the confidentiality requirements of the current law," said Senator Saland.

The bill mandates the reporting of all incidents of suspected abuse of children 13 years of age and under by anyone 19 and over. For children over the age of 13 but under the age of 17, mandated reporters would be obligated to report suspected abuse if the alleged perpetrator is an authority figure by virtue of their clerical, legal, professional, occupational or vocational status and is over the age of 21. Examples of authority figures include coaches, counselors, doctors, baby-sitters, or a member of the clergy.

"This legislation is about protecting children from pedophiles and predators," said Senator Saland. "Mandatory reporting makes law enforcement aware of the heinous crimes perpetrated against children quickly so they may take immediate action."

Within three months of the effective date of this legislation members of the clergy would be required to review all institutional records regarding allegations of child abuse within the last 20 years for retired clergy. All records since the beginning of service would be reviewed for active members of the clergy. All allegations would be reported to law enforcement.

A member of the clergy is not required to report suspected child abuse or neglect if this information is obtained through a confession. However, if this information is additionally revealed outside a confessional they must report the suspected incident directly to law enforcement.

Reports of suspected child abuse must be sent immediately to law enforcement by telephone or fax on a form provided by the Commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services. If reporting by phone a report must be made in writing within 24 hours of the phone call.