“The failure of U.S. schools to protect students from sexual abuse by school personnel is a story of school administrators and district cover-ups, lack of training, incomplete teacher background checks and little guidance from the U.S. Department of Education.” https://www.gao.gov/assets/670/660375.pdf
Community members have an important role in protecting children from abuse and neglect. While not mandated by law to do so, if child abuse or neglect is suspected, a report should be filed with qualified and experienced agencies that will investigate the situation. Examples of these agencies are listed below. Parents and guardians of pupils have the right to file a complaint against anyone they suspect has engaged in abuse or neglect of a child. Community members do not need to provide their name when making a report of child abuse or neglect. Telephone numbers for each county’s emergency response for child abuse reporting are located at California Emergency Response Child Abuse Reporting Telephone Numbers (PDF).
School volunteers, while not mandated reporters, should also be encouraged to report any suspected cases of abuse and neglect. Additionally, school volunteers are highly encouraged by the law to have training in the identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect. The training offered online to mandated reporters, is equally available to school volunteers.
A list of persons whose profession qualifies them as “mandated reporters” of child abuse or neglect is found in California Penal Code Section 11165.7. The list is extensive and continues to grow. It includes all school/district employees, administrators, and athletic coaches. All persons hired into positions included on the list of mandated reporters are required, upon employment, to be provided with a statement, informing them that they are a mandated reporter and their obligations to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect pursuant to California Penal Code Section 11166.5.
All persons who are mandated reporters are required, by law, to report all known or suspected cases of child abuse or neglect. It is not the job of the mandated reporter to determine whether the allegations are valid. If child abuse or neglect is reasonably suspected or if a pupil shares information with a mandated reporter leading him/her to believe abuse or neglect has taken place, the report must be made. No supervisor or administrator can impede or inhibit a report or subject the reporting person to any sanction.
To make a report, an employee must contact an appropriate local law enforcement or county child welfare agency, listed below. This legal obligation is not satisfied by making a report of the incident to a supervisor or to the school. An appropriate law enforcement agency may be one of the following:
The report should be made immediately over the telephone and should be followed up in writing. The law enforcement agency has special forms for this purpose that they will ask you to complete. If a report cannot be made immediately over the telephone, then an initial report may be made via e-mail or fax. A report may also be filed at the same time with your school district or county office of education (COE). School districts and COEs, however, do not investigate child abuse allegations, nor do they attempt to contact the person suspected of child abuse or neglect.
School districts and COEs may have additional policies adopted at the local level relating to the duties of mandated reporters. School staff should consult with their district to determine if there are additional steps that must be taken.
These policies do not take the place of reporting to an appropriate local law enforcement or county child welfare agency.
Mandated reporters are required to give their names when making a report. However, the reporter’s identity is kept confidential. Reports of suspected child abuse are also confidential. Mandated reporters have immunity from state criminal or civil liability for reporting as required. This is true even if the mandated reporter acquired the knowledge, or suspicion of the abuse or neglect, outside his/her professional capacity or scope of employment.
A person who fails to make a required report is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine (California Penal Code Section 11166[c]).
The local law enforcement agency is required to investigate all reports. Cases may also be investigated by Child Welfare Services when allegations involve abuse or neglect within families.
Mandated reporters are individuals who are mandated by law to report known or suspected child maltreatment. They are primarily people who have contact with children through their employment. Mandated reporters are required by the state of California to report any known or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect to the county child welfare department or to a local law enforcement agency (local police/sheriff’s department).
Though everyone should report child abuse, a number of professionals must report abuse or be held liable by law. The specific positions are listed in California Penal Code section 11165.7. Professions include but are not limited to:
An instructional aide
A teacher’s aide or assistant at public or private school
An employee of public school
An administrative officer or supervisor of child welfare and attendance of any school
An administrator of day camp, public or private
An administrator or employee of a public or private youth center, youth recreation program, or youth organization
An administrator or employee of any organization whose duties require direct contact and supervision of children
Any employee of the state or county education system whose duties bring them into contact with children on a regular basis
A licensee, administrator, or employee of a licensed community care or child day care facility
A Head Start program teacher
A licensing worker or licensing evaluator
A public assistance worker
An employee of a child care institution including foster parents, group home personnel, and personnel of residential care facilities
A social worker, probation officer, or parole officer
An employee of a school district police or security department
Any person who works in a child abuse prevention program in any school
A district attorney investigator, inspector, or local child support agency caseworker
A peace officer
A firefighter (except volunteers)
A physician, surgeon, psychiatrist, psychologist, dentist, resident, intern, podiatrist, chiropractor, licensed nurse, dental hygienist, optometrist, marriage, family and child counselor, clinical social worker
Any EMT, paramedic, or other certified person
A psychological assistant
A marriage, family, and child therapist trainee
An unlicensed marriage, family, and child therapist intern
A state or county public health employee
A medical examiner or anyone who performs autopsies
A commercial film and photo processor
A child visitation monitor
An animal control officer or humane society officer
A clergy member or religious practitioner
A custodian of records of a clergy member
Any employee of any police department, county sheriff’s department, county probation department, or county welfare department
An employee or volunteer of a Court Appointed Special Advocate program
An alcohol or drug counselor
No proof of abuse or neglect is needed, only “reasonable suspicion” that child abuse or neglect may have occurred. If you are at all concerned about the possibility of abuse or neglect, you should report. Investigations will be conducted by law enforcement and/or the county child welfare department to determine if abuse or neglect has occurred. Delayed reporting while awaiting further information may hinder investigation by the appropriate agencies.
Mandated reporters must report to a county child welfare department or to local law enforcement (police or sheriff’s department) immediately by phone. A written report must then be sent within 36 hours by fax, or it may be sent by electronic submission, if a secure system has been made available for that purpose in your county. Written reports must be submitted on the California Suspected Child Abuse Report Form 8572. This form can be downloaded at http://ag.ca.gov/childabuse/pdf/ss_8572.pdf.
You are not legally required to notify the parents that you are making a report. However, it may be beneficial to let the parents know you are reporting for the benefit of a future relationship.
No. Telling a supervisor does not meet the mandated reporting requirement. If a decision is made that the supervisor will complete and submit the report to the county child welfare department or law enforcement agency, then one report is sufficient.
You must still make a report to the county child welfare department or local law enforcement. If the supervisor disagrees, the individual with the original suspicion must report.
For mandated reporters, Penal Code 11172(a) provides absolute immunity from state criminal or civil liability for reporting as required. This immunity applies even if the mandated reporter acquired the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of abuse or neglect outside of his or her professional capacity or scope of employment. However, mandated reporters will only have immunity under federal claims if the report was made in good faith.
Legally mandated reporters can be criminally liable for failing to report suspected abuse or neglect. The penalty for this misdemeanor is up to six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Mandated reporters can also be subject to a civil lawsuit, and found liable for damages, especially if the child-victim or another child is further victimized because of the failure to report.
The majority of cases do not go to trial. When they do, and the professional may be required to testify, it is important to remember that the testimony may be essential for the protection of the child.
This varies somewhat from county to county. If the county child welfare department determines that children must be removed from the home, they may be temporarily placed with an approved relative or in a licensed foster care home or facility depending on the county. If a child is removed, the case must be presented to a judge within 72 hours to determine if the removal is necessary or appropriate pending the rest of the investigation.
After a report is filed, the county child welfare department or local law enforcement agency investigates the allegations. These agencies are also required to cross report suspected child abuse or neglect cases to each other. The county child welfare department or law enforcement agency investigation will result in one of three outcomes.
Only substantiated reports of child abuse and severe neglect must be forwarded to the Department of Justice. The county child welfare department will determine if children need to be removed from the home or if services need to be offered to the parents or caregivers. Law enforcement agencies may also pursue criminal prosecution.
Yes. Mandated reporters may take photos or obtain x-rays without parental consent, but only for purposes of documenting or investigating child abuse or neglect.