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Clergy as Child Abuse Mandatory Reporters in Colorado?

A common misconception is that pastors, priests, rabbi and other clergy are mandatory reporters of child abuse (including sexual abuse) in Denver, Jefferson and Adams County, and across the state of Colorado. Let's look specifically to the law from C.R.S. 19-3-304. While "clergy member" is on the list of mandated reporters, immediately below their listing is the following:

"The provisions of this paragraph (aa) shall not apply to a person who acquires reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect during a communication about which the person may not be examined as a witness pursuant to section 13-90-107(1)(c), C.R.S., unless the person also acquires such reasonable cause from a source other than such a communication."

Are Pastors, Priests and Clergy in Denver Really Mandatory Reporters?

In practice, these provisions mean that a clergy member does not need to report their "reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect" unless they obtain this information from a source other than a confidential communication. Conversations where a person is speaking with a pastor or clergy for spiritual advice or counseling in a confidential manner are protected by law. C.R.S. 13-90-107. Too often, governmental websites ignore the language detailed above which exempts confidential communications to clergy.

When do They Have to Report?

If a clergy member in Arapahoe, Douglas or Delta County observes an act of child abuse, sees a child who has obviously been the victim of child abuse, hears from the child of an act of child abuse, or hears from someone in other than a confidential communication about an act of child abuse, they are required by law to report it. Sometimes people juggle specifics of when does a person "hear about" an act of child abuse. Here is the particular language from the statute, detailing when a person possesses knowledge requiring a report: "acquires reasonable cause to know or suspect that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect or who has observed the child being subjected to circumstances or conditions that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect." Seeing a child with unexplained bruises, or hearing from a child that another child has been sexually abused, would certainly amount to "reasonable cause".

Mandatory Reporters - Our Position

We oppose the overly broad mandatory reporting laws in Colorado because we feel men, women and children should be able to get help without fearing governmental reprisals. For example, knowing what you do about this law, would you take your child in for medical care if they were injured accidently by you? Or, would you take them in for counseling if you knew your spouse was going to be arrested and charged? The obvious answer is "no", and as a result needy children do not always get the care they need.

Accidents occur and Social Services (Human Services) and District Attorneys are unforgiving of these accidents. Children are taken from the home and kept from their parents over "child abuse" accidents. In one recent case, a lying young girl has caused her entire family to be split up. Her siblings are in foster care. All this occurred because of Social Services' "believe the children" mentality. Even in the face of solid proof to the contrary, Human Services would rather destroy children and their parents, than to admit a child might be lying. It is not in their DNA to search out the truth.

Call our lawyers 24/7, if you have concerns about clergy mandatory reporting or child abuse. Felony child abuse and sexual assault charges involving kids can result in serious prison time. We are experienced Colorado criminal attorneys with a zeal to protect your family. So, never speak with Social Services, Human Services or the police. Instead, call us at 303-731-0719. Together, we can protect your future.

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