Georgia Mandated Reporter Law
Georgia has a complex web of laws governing mandatory reporting, and the responsibility includes more than traditionally-understood abuse or neglect. The law imposes a responsibility to report such things as emotional abuse, exposure to drugs, driving under the influence, and some cases of domestic violence. Furthermore, the statute specifically includes volunteers, thus placing a responsibility on youth-serving organizations to train volunteers as well as employees.
This survey discusses only the mandated reporter statute in Georgia. If your organization is governed by a state licensing agency, such as education or childcare, then that agency likely has its own set of reporting requirements. Be sure to consult those regulations.
WHO Must Report?
Georgia has a specific list of people who must report, including “child service organization personnel.” That definition includes employees and volunteers with any organization that provides “care, treatment, education, training, supervision, coaching, counseling, recreational programs, or shelter to children.” Thus, organizations must train both their employees and any volunteers.
Child Care Centers: Employees and volunteers at these centers are mandated reporters.
Camps: Camps are included in the definition.
Mentoring Organizations: Most mentoring organizations will fit in the statutory definition.
Schools: The statute specifies that school administrators, teachers, counselors, social workers and psychologists are mandated reporters.
Church Programs: The statute does not specifically list church personnel, but the vast majority of church programs fit within the statute’s definition. There is a specific exception for clergy who learn about abuse solely during “confession or other similar communication required to be kept confidential under church doctrine or practice.”
WHAT Must You Report?
Georgia requires the reporting of “suspected child abuse,” including physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, and endangering a child.
Endangering a Child: The statutory definition sets out several specific actions:
- Cruelty to Children: Depriving a child of sustenance and causing excessive physical or mental pain.
- Domestic Violence: Allowing a child to witness a felony, battery, or family violence battery.
- Drug Manufacture: Allowing children to be present during the manufacture of methamphetamine.
- DUI: Driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances with a child under 14 in the car.
- Mental/Emotional Abuse: Causing “excessive . . . mental pain.” Custody statutes describe “emotional abuse” as causing “any mental injury to [a] child’s intellectual or psychological capacity as evidenced by an observable and significant impairment in such child’s ability to function with a child’s normal range of performance and behavior,” or that create a risk of such impairment as diagnosed by a physician or mental health professional. Severe cases of cyberbullying would fit into this category.
- Prenatal Abuse: Personnel must report “exposure to chronic or severe use of alcohol or the unlawful use of any controlled substance” that leaves effects on a newborn.
Neglect: The reporting statute does not define neglect, but the standard in custody proceedings is “failure to provide proper . . . control necessary for a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health or morals.”
- 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.
- Lack of Supervision: Neglect includes “failure to provide a child with adequate supervision necessary for such child’s well-being.” There are no specific statutes or regulations, but the state Department of Family and Children’s Services has issued some guidelines: (1) children 8 years old and under should not be left unsupervised; (2) children between the ages of 9 and 12 can be left alone for less than two hours; and (3) children 13 years and older may be left alone and serve as a babysitter for up to 12 hours.
Physical Abuse: You must report physical injury caused “by other than accidental means.” There is an exception for corporal punishment that does not cause physical injury.
Sexual Abuse: You must report physical injury caused “by other than accidental means.” There is an exception for corporal punishment that does not cause physical injury.
- Teen Sexual Activity: The age of consent in Georgia is 16, but there is an exception for consensual acts between a minor who is at least 14 and someone not more than four years older than the minor.
Sexual Exploitation: You must report physical injury caused “by other than accidental means.” There is an exception for corporal punishment that does not cause physical injury.
- Sexting: Georgia has two specific laws that prohibit minors from sending sexually explicit images to each other, but the mandated reporter statute does not list either of them as being grounds for a report. Caretakers certainly must report any such communication involving adults.
WHEN Must You Report?
Georgia requires a report no later than 24 hours “from the time there is reasonable cause to believe that suspected abuse has occurred.” That standard is lower than the old “reasonable cause” standard. Now, any time you even suspect abuse, you must report it.
WHERE Must You Report?
The statute requires a report to the Division of Family and Children Services. That agency has a statewide hotline at 1-855-GACHILD (1-855-422-4453). The statute also allows a mandated report to make a report to a supervisor. The supervisor cannot change anything in the report, but may add additional information.
WHY Must You Report?
Knowingly and willfully failing to report suspected abuse is a misdemeanor.