Senate Bill No. 161
(Senators Foster, Palumbo, Klempa, Fanning, Unger, Kessler (Mr. President), Jenkins, Browning, Kirkendoll, Wills, Yost, Stollings and McCabe, original sponsors)
[Passed March 10, 2012; in effect ninety days from passage.]
AN ACT to amend and reenact §49-6A-1, §49-6A-2, §49-6A-8 and §49-6A-10 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, all relating to mandatory reporting of abuse and neglect of children; adding promoting adult responsibility and prevention to the purpose; adding certain persons to the mandatory reporting list for all abuse or neglect of children; creating a requirement that certain adults report sexual abuse of children when observed or when received credible reports; allowing for exceptions; requiring law enforcement who receive a report of sexual abuse to alert the Department of Health and Human Resources; encouraging law-enforcement agencies to coordinate in investigating a report; increasing the criminal penalties for failure to report; creating a crime and criminal penalties for all adults who fail to report sexual abuse of children; and requiring and amending certain educational programs and trainings.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §49-6A-1, §49-6A-2, §49-6A-8 and §49-6A-10 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted, all to read as follows:
ARTICLE 6A. REPORTS OF CHILDREN SUSPECTED TO BE ABUSED OR NEGLECTED.
It is the purpose of this article, through the complete reporting of child abuse and neglect, to protect the best interests of the child, to offer protective services in order to prevent any further harm to the child or any other children living in the home, to stabilize the home environment, to preserve family life whenever possible, to promote adult responsibility for protecting children and to encourage cooperation among the states to prevent future incidents of child abuse and neglect and in dealing with the problems of child abuse and neglect.
49-6A-2. Persons mandated to report suspected abuse and neglect.
(a) Any medical, dental or mental health professional, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer, school teacher or other school personnel, social service worker, child care or foster care worker, emergency medical services personnel, peace officer or law-enforcement official, humane officer, member of the clergy, circuit court judge, family court judge, employee of the Division of Juvenile Services, magistrate, youth camp administrator or counselor, employee, coach or volunteer of an entity that provides organized activities for children, or commercial film or photographic print processor who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is neglected or abused or observes the child being subjected to conditions that are likely to result in abuse or neglect shall immediately, and not more than forty-eight hours after suspecting this abuse or neglect, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the Department of Health and Human Resources: Provided, That in any case where the reporter believes that the child suffered serious physical abuse or sexual abuse or sexual assault, the reporter shall also immediately report, or cause a report to be made, to the State Police and any law-enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the complaint: Provided, however, That any person required to report under this article who is a member of the staff or volunteer of a public or private institution, school, entity that provides organized activities for children, facility or agency shall also immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, entity that provides organized activities for children, facility or agency, or a designated agent thereof, who may supplement the report or cause an additional report to be made.
(b) Any person over the age of eighteen who receives a disclosure from a credible witness or observes any sexual abuse or sexual assault of a child, shall immediately, and not more than forty-eight hours after receiving such a disclosure or observing the sexual abuse or sexual assault, report the circumstances or cause a report to be made to the Department of Health and Human Resources or the State Police or other law-enforcement agency having jurisdiction to investigate the report. In the event that the individual receiving the disclosure or observing the sexual abuse or sexual assault has a good faith belief that the reporting of the event to the police would expose either the reporter, the subject child, the reporter’s children or other children in the subject child’s household to an increased threat of serious bodily injury, the individual may delay making the report while he or she undertakes measures to remove themselves or the affected children from the perceived threat of additional harm: Provided, That the individual makes the report as soon as practicable after the threat of harm has been reduced. The law-enforcement agency that receives a report under this subsection shall report the allegations to the Department of Health and Human Resources and coordinate with any other law-enforcement agency, as necessary to investigate the report.
(c) Nothing in this article is intended to prevent individuals from reporting suspected abuse or neglect on their own behalf. In addition to those persons and officials specifically required to report situations involving suspected abuse or neglect of children, any other person may make a report if such person has reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected in a home or institution or observes the child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that would reasonably result in abuse or neglect.
§49-6A-8. Failure to report; penalty.
Any person, official or institution required by this article to report a case involving a child known or suspected to be abused or neglected, or required by section five of this article to forward a copy of a report of serious injury, who knowingly fails to do so or knowingly prevents another person acting reasonably from doing so, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be confined in jail not more than thirty days or fined not more than $1,000, or both.
§49-6A-10. Educational programs.
Subject to appropriation in the budget bill, the state department shall conduct educational and training programs for persons required to report suspected abuse or neglect, and the general public, as well as implement evidence-based programs that reduce incidents of child maltreatment including sexual abuse. Training for persons require to report and the general public shall include indicators of child abuse and neglect, tactics used by sexual abusers, how and when to make a report, and protective factors that prevent abuse and neglect in order to promote adult responsibility for protecting children, encourage maximum reporting of child abuse and neglect, and to improve communication, cooperation and coordination among all agencies involved in the identification, prevention and treatment of the abuse and neglect of children.