Certain professionals in California are required to report actual or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities. In fact, failure to do so is a crime and can result in punishments including jail time and fines. Given the unique access these workers have to endangered children, their role as mandated reporters can potentially reduce instances of abuse and neglect.
Paul Mones, P.C. advocates for victims of child sexual abuse. Part of our goal in ending childhood abuse is to spread awareness of laws that protect children, like California’s mandated reporting requirements. If you were sexually abused as a child, or you know someone who was, talk to us about your legal options.
What Is California’s Mandated Reporting Law?
Under the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, certain employees in California are required to report actual or suspected child abuse or neglect. Not doing so is a crime. Over 50 different professionals are mandated reporters under the law, including:
- Social workers
- Police officers
- Animal control officers
- Athletic coaches
The statute covers numerous types of child abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse and sexual assault. Mandatory reporters are required to notify the appropriate law enforcement personnel or social service workers within 36 hours of learning about or suspecting an incident of abuse or neglect.
What Are Examples Of Child Sexual Abuse Covered By The Law?
Because the phrase “child sexual abuse” isn’t always clearly understood by mandated reporters, the statute goes to great lengths to make it clear what types of abuse are covered.
Mandated reporters are often in a position to be exposed to or access information that the general public might not see. For example, a doctor can identify signs of child sexual abuse that a layperson wouldn’t notice. For that reason, it’s important for mandated reporters to understand the types of child sexual abuse they have to report. These are some examples:
- Sexual assault of a child, including rape, statutory rape, and sodomy
- Touching a child’s genitals
- Production or possession of child pornography
- Child sex trafficking
How To Report Suspected Abuse
The report should be made immediately (or as soon as practically possible) over the phone and then followed up in writing. The written report should be sent via fax or electronic submission using the appropriate form. The report has to be made to:
- A county welfare department/Child Protective Services
- A police or sheriff’s department
Included in the mandated reporter’s written report should be:
- The reporter’s name and contact information
- The mandatory reporter’s job title
- The information the reporter suspects indicates abuse or neglect
Some reporters are required to take additional steps to report abuse. For example, teachers may have to report separately to their school district or county office of education. It’s important to note that these reporting duties do not take the place of reporting to one of the above agencies.
What Can Happen If A Mandatory Reporter Fails To Report Abuse?
California takes its mandated reporting law seriously. Failure to make a mandated abuse report may result in criminal charges. Mandated reporters are not required to investigate the abuse or neglect themselves.
Reporters are immune from civil and criminal liability if they properly made a report and, in fact, no abuse or neglect occurred. This protection applies even if the information contained in the report was obtained outside of the reporter’s scope of employment or professional capacity. Reports of suspected abuse are kept confidential, as are the identities of mandated reporters.
What Happens After A Report Is Made?
The local law enforcement agency is required to investigate once a written report of abuse is filed. In some cases, particularly those involving allegations of abuse or neglect within a family, Child Welfare Services will conduct the investigation.
If You Have Questions About Your Duties As A Mandated Reporter, Ask Us
Our law firm is dedicated to making sure child sexual abuse victims get the justice they deserve. But we want to prevent such abuse from happening in the first place if we can.
If you’re a victim of such abuse yourself, or you know someone who is, you may have the legal right to seek monetary compensation. Give us a call today to find out more.