As a consultant for pregnancy centers, I've learned that one of the greatest fears in this work is the mandated reporting issue. In conversing with volunteers and peer counselors, I have heard that they would rather not know if a minor client is pregnant by an adult male so that they can avoid calling the police.
We need to take a closer look at this procedure of mandated reporting, understanding that abortion clinics try at all costs not to obtain information regarding adult/minor relationships. They go out of their way to ask clients not to share this information so they can avoid mandated reporting.
Since crisis pregnancy centers continually strive to be above reproach, this is definitely an area that we must examine carefully. Center directors and peer counselors need to seriously and on purpose ask and investigate their client's remarks to make sure they are accountable to the mandated reporting laws in their state. By avoiding reporting abuse, we are doing our clients an injustice, and we are lowering our standards of quality.
When we knowingly evade our duty as mandated reporters, we are letting pedophiles continue their abuse, and we are emulating the actions of abortion clinics that we criticize for doing abortions on minors without reporting abuse.
During the last six years that I have been an executive director, I have reported about a dozen cases of minor/adult relationships to the law. Here are several of them.
A 13-year-old was five months pregnant, which meant she became pregnant at 12. She said the father was a 15-year-old across the street from her. This is just too young to be pregnant, and I decided to have the police investigate. She was telling the truth. I made sure of it.
A 16-year-old came in with Mom and said she'd been raped. Her mother insisted that she was lying, and I decided that this was for the police to decide.
A 16-year-old Muslim girl was pregnant by a young man from her school. Her parents promised her to a man from their country. She informed the volunteer counselor that her father would kill her and had already beaten her for seeing this boy. I called the police regardless of the anger and tears from both her and her boyfriend. CPS got involved and made a safe plan for her.
A 16-year-old girl shared with the counselor that a man got her drunk and took advantage of her. I informed her immediately to call her mother because I was calling the police. She begged me not to, insisting that she wasn't raped; I insisted that this was not consensual sex. The judge agreed and sentenced him to 11 months in jail.
A 23-year-old man brought his 16-year-old girlfriend in for a pregnancy test. My volunteer counselor came and got me. He told me that her father lets them live together in his house. I informed him that I am a mandated reporter, and I had to report this. He insisted that it was okay. I insisted that a police officer has to inform me of that. I called the police, and a dispatcher informed me that it is not against the law unless he is a person of authority (i.e., coach, teacher) or if this is an abusive situation. I included in her file the name of the dispatcher as well as a police officer's name, who informed me of the same thing.
Remember, the executive director (or person in charge in her absence) is the mandated reporter. We should not place this burden on our volunteer counselors. We ask enough of them already, but they need to be trained on how to ask questions and report to you even if they are just suspicious.
Also remember, we are protecting young girls from abuse. We do not ever want to have a reputation of avoiding reporting. Some day your client will look back on this time of her life when someone was brave enough to stand up to her abuser and protect her. You never want her to say that nobody cared, not even the pregnancy center.
Rita Williams is a former executive director, a pregnancy center consultant, and a banquet speaker. She can be reached at Williams3290@sbcglobal.net.