Sexually Active Minors and Child Abuse Reporting
The NYCLU has long been committed to ensuring that young people are able to access confidential reproductive and sexual health care. A central component of our work is to remove barriers that prevent or deter young people from accessing these critical health care services. One of the major barriers to confidential health care has been confusion around whether a report of child abuse is necessary when it becomes clear that a teen is sexually active. When a child abuse report is made, it can result in a child abuse investigation against the teen’s parents.
Even though young people under seventeen are not legally capable of consent for sexual activity, this does not mean that a child abuse report is required every time a mandated reporter learns that a teen has had sex. This is because the definition of child abuse in New York is limited to abuse or neglect by a parent or other person legally responsible for the child’s care. Therefore, a minor’s sexual activity alone does not provide the “reasonable suspicion” of abuse or neglect that is required to breach confidentiality.
The following links clarify the rights and responsibilities of young people and mandatory reporters regarding mandatory child abuse reporting and teen sexual activity.