The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the mutual public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses with territory in the state of Maryland, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. We submit this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 245, which would require an agency investigating a child abuse allegation to file a complaint with the appropriate licensing board or institution of an employee who they have reason to believe has failed to report a suspected case of child abuse.
Like many other institutions serving children, all Catholic parishes, diocesan schools and youth programs observe stringent child protection measures. Our institutions conduct mandatory criminal background checks on all employees and on certain volunteers who work with children, provide comprehensive awareness training to educate adults and children on how to recognize predatory behaviors, and promptly report all suspected incidents of child sexual abuse.
While most child-serving institutions likely observe similar procedures, HB 245 will help to ensure that all members of professions required to report suspected child abuse will be prompt and diligent in their responsibility. Early reporting of child abuse is critical to the safety of victims, not only those involved in current investigations, but also for those who might be potentially abused by an undiscovered perpetrator.
In the implementation of HB 245, we wish to note the importance of adequate training for all professionals required to report suspected child abuse. While it is important to hold them to a high standard of compliance, it is also critical that they be provided a fair opportunity to understand the law and the appropriate procedures for complying with these requirements. Such training should take into account existing training programs developed by experts in the area, and should be implemented in a manner that does not impose undue financial burdens on employers.