Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting-California

In California, the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act was enacted with intent to protect children from child abuse and neglect.[i] California law requires mandated reporters to report incidents of obvious or suspected child abuse or neglect in relation to a child below the age of 18 noticed by them in their professional capacity or in the course of their employment.[ii] The term “child abuse or neglect” as defined in Cal Pen Code § 11165.6 shall mean:

physical injury or death inflicted by other than accidental means upon a child by another person, sexual abuse as defined in Section 11165.1, neglect as defined in Section 11165.2, the willful harming or injuring of a child or the endangering of the person or health of a child, as defined in Section 11165.3, and unlawful corporal punishment or injury as defined in Section 11165.4. “Child abuse or neglect” does not include a mutual affray between minors. “Child abuse or neglect” does not include an injury caused by reasonable and necessary force used by a peace officer acting within the course and scope of his or her employment as a peace officer.

Mandated reporter means a person who is mandated by law to report instances of child abuse and neglect.  According to Cal Pen Code § 11165.7, the term “mandated reporter” shall include any of the following:

(1) A teacher.

(2) An instructional aide.

(3) A teacher’s aide or teacher’s assistant employed by any public or private school.

(4) A classified employee of any public school.

(5) An administrative officer or supervisor of child welfare and attendance, or a certificated pupil personnel employee of any public or private school.

(6) An administrator of a public or private day camp.

(7) An administrator or employee of a public or private youth center, youth recreation program, or youth organization.

(8) An administrator or employee of a public or private organization whose duties require direct contact and supervision of children.

(9) Any employee of a county office of education or the State Department of Education, whose duties bring the employee into contact with children on a regular basis.

(10) A licensee, an administrator, or an employee of a licensed community care or child day care facility.

(11) A Head Start program teacher.

(12) A licensing worker or licensing evaluator employed by a licensing agency as defined in Section 11165.11.

(13) A public assistance worker.

(14) An employee of a child care institution, including, but not limited to, foster parents, group home personnel, and personnel of residential care facilities.

(15) A social worker, probation officer, or parole officer.

(16) An employee of a school district police or security department.

(17) Any person who is an administrator or presenter of, or a counselor in, a child abuse prevention program in any public or private school.

(18) A district attorney investigator, inspector, or local child support agency caseworker.  However, if the investigator, inspector, or caseworker is working with an attorney appointed to represent a minor he may not be a mandated reporter.

(19) A peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2, who is not otherwise described in this section.

(20) A firefighter, except for volunteer firefighters.

(21) A physician, surgeon, psychiatrist, psychologist, dentist, resident, intern, podiatrist, chiropractor, licensed nurse, dental hygienist, optometrist, marriage, family and child counselor, clinical social worker, or any other person who is currently licensed under Division 2 (commencing with Section 500) of the Business and Professions Code.

(22) Any emergency medical technician I or II, paramedic, or other person certified pursuant to Division 2.5 (commencing with Section 1797) of the Health and Safety Code.

(23) A psychological assistant registered pursuant to Section 2913 of the Business and Professions Code.

(24) A marriage, family, and child therapist trainee, as defined in subdivision (c) of Section 4980.03 of the Business and Professions Code.

(25) An unlicensed marriage, family, and child therapist intern registered under Section 4980.44 of the Business and Professions Code.

(26) A state or county public health employee who treats a minor for venereal disease or any other condition.

(27) A coroner.

(28) A medical examiner, or any other person who performs autopsies.

(29) A commercial film and photographic print processor, as specified in subdivision (e) of Section 11166. As used in this article, “commercial film and photographic print processor” means any person who develops exposed photographic film into negatives, slides, or prints, or who makes prints from negatives or slides, for compensation. The term includes any employee of such a person; it does not include a person who develops film or makes prints for a public agency.

(30) A child visitation monitor. As used in this article, “child visitation monitor” means any person who, for financial compensation, acts as monitor of a visit between a child and any other person when the monitoring of that visit has been ordered by a court of law.

(31) Any person employed by a city, county, or city and county for the purpose of enforcing animal control laws or regulations.(Animal Control Officer)

(32) A clergy member who shall include a priest, minister, rabbi, religious practitioner, or similar functionary of a church, temple, or recognized denomination or organization.  Any custodian of records of a clergy member.
(34) Any employee of any police department, county sheriff’s department, county probation department, or county welfare department.

(35) An employee or volunteer of a Court Appointed Special Advocate program, as defined in Rule 1424 of the California Rules of Court.

(36) A custodial officer as defined in Section 831.5.

(37) Any person providing services to a minor child under Section 12300 or 12300.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

(38) Any person providing counseling, therapy, or other clinical services for a state licensed or certified drug, alcohol, or drug and alcohol treatment program.

Any other person who has knowledge of or observes a child being subject to obvious or suspected child abuse or neglect may report such incidents to the agency.  The term “any other person” includes a mandated reporter who acts in his/her private capacity and not in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment. [iii]

The report of child abuse or neglect shall be made to any police department or sheriff’s department, not including a school district police or security department, county probation department, if designated by the county to receive mandated reports, or the county welfare department.[iv] Such agencies shall accept reports of child abuse or neglect made by mandated reporters, any other person, or referred by other agencies.  Agencies may also accept reports, for which they do not have subject matter or geographical jurisdiction to investigate the reported case if the agency cannot immediately electronically transfer the call to an agency with proper jurisdiction.  After an agency accepts a report in which it lacks jurisdiction, it shall immediately refer the case by telephone, fax, or electronic transmission to an agency with proper jurisdiction.[v]

Agencies that are required to receive reports of suspected child abuse or neglect may not refuse to accept a report from a mandated reporter or any other person unless otherwise authorized by law.  Agencies accepting the reports shall maintain a record of all reports received.[vi]

The mandated reporter shall make an initial oral report of child abuse or neglect to the agency immediately or as soon as is practicably possible.  Oral report may be made via telephone.  Within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident, the mandated reporter shall prepare and send, fax, or electronically transmit a written follow up report.  Non privileged documentary evidence relating to the incident may also be presented along with the report. [vii]

Agencies shall be notified even if the report is regarding the child abuse or neglect of a dead child.  Incidents of child abuse discovered during an autopsy shall also be notified to the agency.[viii]

After making reasonable efforts if the mandated reporter is unable to submit an initial oral report, he/she shall immediately submit a one time automated written report on the form prescribed by the Department of Justice, and be available to attend follow up calls, if any. [ix]

A clergy member who acquires knowledge or a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect during a confidential communication or a sacramental confession made to the clergy member in the course of the discipline or practice of his/her church has a duty to keep those communications secret.[x] However, the clergy member has to report incidents of child abuse or neglect noticed by him in other capacities. [xi]

Any commercial film and photographic print processor who within the scope of his/her professional capacity or employment acquires knowledge of or observes any film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide depicting a child under the age of 16 years engaged in an act of sexual conduct, shall report the instance of suspected child abuse to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the case immediately.  The initial report may be made orally.  A written report with a copy of the film, photograph, videotape, negative, or slide attached should follow the oral report.  The written report should be submitted within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident.[xii]

Any mandated reporter who knows or reasonably suspects that the home or institution in which a child resides is unsuitable for the child because of abuse or neglect of the child shall report such condition to the agency.[xiii]

The reporting duties are individual, and any supervisor or administrator may not impede or inhibit the reporting duties.  Reporting incidents of child abuse or neglect to an employer, supervisor, school principal, school counselor, coworker, or other person shall not be a substitute for making a mandated report to an agency. [xiv]

Immediately after receiving a report of child abuse or neglect, County Probation or Welfare Department shall report such incidents by telephone, fax, or electronic transmission to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the case; the agency given the responsibility for investigation of cases; and the district attorney’s office.  Within 36 hours of receiving information concerning the incident, it shall also submit a written report to any agency to which it makes a telephone report. [xv]

The identity of the reporter shall be confidential.  It shall be disclosed only to agencies investigating the report; in cases where the person waives confidentiality; or by a court order.[xvi]

A mandated reporter shall not be civilly or criminally liable for any report required or authorized by law; the immunity applies even if the mandated reporter acquired the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect outside of his or her professional capacity or outside the scope of his or her employment. Any other person reporting a known or suspected instance of child abuse or neglect shall not incur civil or criminal liability as a result of any report authorized by law.  Any person who takes photograph or cause the photographs to be taken of incidents of child abuse or neglect without parental consent, or who disseminates such photographs along with the reports shall not incur any civil or criminal liability.  However, a person who makes a false report is liable for the damages caused on account of the report.[xvii]

If upon the request from a government agency investigating a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, any person provides the requesting agency with access to the victim of known or suspected instance of child abuse or neglect, such person shall not incur civil or criminal liability as a result of providing that access. [xviii]

Any mandated reporter who fails to report an incident of known or reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months confinement in a county jail or by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by both that imprisonment and fine.  If a mandated reporter intentionally conceals any incident of child abuse or neglect, his/her failure to report is a continuing offense until an agency specified in Section 11165.9 (describing the agency to whom a report is to be made) discovers the offense. [xix]

If any mandated reporter willfully fails to report abuse or neglect, or if any person impedes or inhibits a report of abuse or neglect, and if such abuse or neglect results in death or great bodily injury, the mandated reporter shall be punished by not more than one year in a county jail, or a fine not exceeding 5000 dollars ($5,000).  In some cases the person may be charged with both fine and imprisonment.[xx]


[i] Cal Pen Code § 11164

[ii] Cal Pen Code § 11166(a)

[iii] Cal Pen Code § 11166(g)

[iv] Cal Pen Code § 11165.9

[v] Cal Pen Code § 11165.9

[vi] Cal Pen Code § 11165.9

[vii] Cal Pen Code § 11166(a)

[viii] Cal Pen Code § 11166(a)(2)

[ix] Cal Pen Code § 11166(b)

[x] Cal Pen Code § 11166(d)(1)

[xi] Cal Pen Code § 11166(d)(2)

[xii] Cal Pen Code § 11166(e)

[xiii] Cal Pen Code § 11166(f)

[xiv] Cal Pen Code § 11166(i)

[xv] Cal Pen Code § 11166(j)

[xvi] Cal Pen Code § 11167

[xvii] Cal Pen Code § 11172(a)

[xviii] Cal Pen Code § 11172(b)

[xix] Cal Pen Code § 11166(c)

[xx] Cal Pen Code § 11166.01(b)


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