Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services - Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation of the Elderly and Disabled
Missouri Department of Social Services - Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline
Last updated September 29, 2022
Revised Missouri statutes related to this issue can be found in 210.115.1 at this link.
The key phrases are “childcare worker” and “or other person with responsibility for the care of children.” In the eyes of Missouri, it does not matter if you are paid or unpaid, clergy or lay, staff or non-staff. If you have responsibility for the care of children (e.g., VBS volunteer, Sunday School worker, nursery volunteer, etc.), Missouri expects you to “immediately report to the division in accordance with the provisions of sections 210.109 to 210.183.” That person CANNOT take other steps such as starting an investigation without violating the law.
A violation of this law is a misdemeanor. Failure to report exposes required reporters in Missouri to risk criminal prosecution.
Local church volunteers may be hesitant to make a call in an attempt to avoid controversy or to avoid falsely accusing someone. However, Missouri law makes those concerns secondary to promptly fulfilling the statutes as laid out. In addition to facing criminal prosecution, failure to report could result in exposing the church or Conference to civil liability claims.
Worthy of noting: making a call to a hotline is one for which the caller cannot be successfully sued, unless the call was made in malice and with knowledge that the report was false. According to the Missouri statute, the reporter has “immunity” from civil liability.
It is always better to have shown that the church was vigorous in its actions to protect children from abuse or neglect rather than looking like the church was dragging its feet in following up with reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect.
Missouri Mandatory Reporting Guide