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California Child Abuse & Neglect Reporting Law: Issues and Answers for Mandated Reporters

NCJ Number
Patty Lough
Date Published
May 2003
48 pages
This booklet provides information on the objectives and requirements of California's Child Abuse Reporting Law, along with information on the warning signs for child abuse and neglect and criteria for "reasonable suspicion" that child abuse or neglect is occurring; treatment issues are also discussed.
The law requires the reporting of child abuse by certain parties who are likely to have regular professional contact with abused children and their parents. The primary intent of the reporting law is to protect abused and neglected children and provide help for the suspected abuser. This booklet explains what to report, when to report, and to whom. Also discussed are reporters' immunity from criminal or civil liability for reporting, liability for failure to report suspected abuse/neglect, the responsibilities of an agency that employs a mandated reporter, the licensing requirement, and feedback to the reporter on the results of the investigation. A discussion of the warning signs for abuse/neglect focuses on the physical condition of the home in terms of hazards and health risks, clues in the attitudes and behaviors of parents, and physical and behavioral indicators for the child. Warning signs are distinguished for various types of abuse/neglect. The booklet advises that if a mandated reporter has a reasonable suspicion that child abuse has occurred, a report should be completed. "Reasonable suspicion" means "that it is objectively reasonable for a person to entertain a suspicion, based upon facts that could cause a reasonable person in a like position, drawing, when appropriate, on his or her training and experience, to suspect child abuse or neglect." Guidelines are provided for determining reasonable suspicion for various types of abuse and neglect. Treatment issues discussed are confidentiality, therapist's reactions in working with abuse, helpful interventions, and unhelpful interventions.