South Carolina Mandated Reporter Law

September 21, 2016

This survey discusses only the mandated reporter statute in South Carolina. If your organization is governed by a state licensing agency, such as education or child care, then that agency likely has its own set of reporting requirements. Be sure to consult those regulations if they apply to you.

This survey lists only broad categories, and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice about your specific situation, please consult an attorney licensed in your state.

WHO Must Report?
South Carolina has a specific list of professionals, including many child-care organizations. The only exceptions are privileged attorney/client and clergy/penitent communications. Also, you must report only if you learn of the abuse in your professional capacity (i.e., teachers).

  • Child Care Centers: Child care workers must report suspected abuse.
  • Camps: The statute does not include camps, but best practices are to report anything that you suspect.
  • Mentoring Organizations: The statute does not list mentoring organizations, but best practices are to report.
  • Schools: School teachers, counselors, principals and assistant principals are mandated reporters.
  • Church Programs: Members of clergy must report, but lay leaders are not included. Again, the best practice is to report suspected abuse. There is an exception for information covered under the clergy/penitent privilege.

WHAT Must You Report?
South Carolina professionals must report possible abuse or neglect. 

  • Abandonment: A parent or guarding is guilty of abandonment when he or she “willfully deserts a child or willfully surrenders physical possession of a child without making adequate arrangements” for continuing care.
  • Abuse: The South Carolina law covers physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. The definition specifies “physical or mental injury” or actions that “present a substantial risk of physical or mental injury to the child.”
    • Physical Abuse: You must report actual or risk of physical injury, excluding reasonable and moderate corporal punishment. “Physical injury” includes “disfigurement or impairment of any bodily organ or function.”
    • Lack of Supervision: South Carolina does not have any specific rules, stating only that no one can place a child “at unreasonable risk of harm.”
    • Domestic Violence: There are no specific rules for this situation, so it would fall under the general prohibition against placing a child at unreasonable risk of harm.
    • Mental Abuse: The statute prohibits “mental injury,” and defines it as injury “evidenced by a discernible and substantial impairment of the child’s ability to function” as diagnosed by a mental health or medical professional.
    • Sexual Abuse: The statute requires the reporting of “sexual offenses” and actions “that present a substantial risk” of sexual abuse.
    • Teen Sexual Activity: The age of consent in South Carolina is 16 years old, but it is not a crime for a person under 18 years old to engage in sexual activity with someone at least 14 years old. Thus, you need not report sexual activity among minors as long as both are at least age 14.
    • Sexual Exploitation: Professionals must report anyone who “encourages, condones, or approves” sexual exploitation of anyone under age 18. That requirement includes not only using children in prostitution or pornography, but allowing children to view pornography.
    • Sexting: South Carolina law includes in its list of “sexual offenses” the distribution of nude or sexual pictures to minors, as well as allowing a minor to view such material. There is an exception for parents, and for a school, museum, or other institution that is carrying out “its legitimate function.” There is no age limit, so professionals must report teens who text nude photographs of each other to their friends.
  • Neglect: South Carolina professionals must report failure to supply the child with food, clothing, shelter, education, appropriate supervision, or health care, if the parents “have or are offered the means to do so.”

WHEN Must You Report?
South Carolina does not have a specific time frame for reporting. Named professionals must report when they have learned information in their professional capacity that gives them reason to believe that a child’s health has been or may be adversely affected by abuse or neglect. 

WHERE Must You Report?
The statute requires a report to the county Department of Social Services or to law enforcement “where the child resides or may be found.” The state apparently does not have a statewide hotline. If someone other than a parent or person responsible for the child commits the abuse, you must report to local law enforcement.

WHY Must You Report?
Knowing failure to report suspected abuse is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months and up to a $500 fine.

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