What is California's Mandated Reporting Law?

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What are ‘Mandated Reporters’ in California?

What are ‘Mandated Reporters’ in California?

May 26, 2023

Professionals in various capacities are charged with a duty to protect individuals who can’t protect themselves, such as children, dependent adults (e.g. the elderly), and the otherwise vulnerable.

What is California’s Mandated Reporting Law?

The California mandatory reporter law is one of the most essential pieces of legislation available which serves to protect vulnerable individuals. The mandatory reporting law requires specific professionals to report any suspected child abuse or neglect to the proper authorities.

However, identifying signs of neglect and abuse can be challenging, especially when physical symptoms are not immediately apparent.

In the sections below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the California mandatory reporter law, including who’s responsible for enforcing it and the consequences of failing to do so. Additionally, we’ll provide information on how to identify signs of child abuse and neglect.

What is Mandatory Reporting?

An unfortunate statistic is that one in every six children in California is subjected to abuse or neglect. Sadly, children exposed to mistreatment are at increased risk for developing adverse developmental, physical, and mental health outcomes.

According to the Committee on Child Maltreatment Research, abuse or neglect may also have significant consequences on children’s social, psychological, cognitive, and brain development.

And many of these vulnerable individuals are likely to carry this type of trauma into adulthood, with many having psychiatric disorders, substance abuse problems, severe medical illnesses, and lower economic productivity.

The California Mandatory Reporting Law Explained

California mandated reporting refers to a legal requirement for certain professionals and individuals to report suspected or known cases of child abuse, neglect, or endangerment to appropriate authorities.

In California, mandated reporters are those individuals who have regular contact with children as part of their job or profession. This includes, but is not limited to, teachers, healthcare providers, social workers, law enforcement officers, and childcare providers.

When a mandated reporter suspects that a child is being abused, neglected, or endangered, they are legally required to report their concerns to Child Protective Services (CPS) or law enforcement immediately. Failure to report suspected abuse or neglect can result in penalties and disciplinary action.

California mandated reporting laws are intended to protect children from harm and ensure that reports of abuse and neglect are taken seriously and promptly investigated.

Mandatory reporting aims to safeguard vulnerable individuals, particularly children and dependent adults, by holding certain professionals responsible for reporting suspected maltreatment to the appropriate authorities.

The responsibility of mandatory reporting for individuals and society also includes preventing potential violent/criminal acts against members of the public, holding perpetrators accountable for their actions, and assisting law enforcement in solving cases.

Mandatory reporting is a legal requirement not limited to California. This law exists in all 50 U.S. states and is known as the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA).

Mandatory Reporters in California: What are the Responsibilities?

How is California’s mandatory reporting law different from other states? It’s in the details.

The California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act requires specific professionals to report child maltreatment. However, one key difference is the detailed list of professions considered mandatory reporters in the Golden State.

California’s mandatory reporters are broader than other states and include non-traditional professions like clergy and certain employees of childcare institutions. California also clearly defines child abuse or neglect, which may vary from other states’ scope and detail.

Moreover, California has a more stringent timeline than other states in terms of reporting requirements. Mandated reporters in California must file an initial report within 36 hours of awareness of any suspected abuse or neglect.

Finally, California stipulates provisions for follow-up reports and collaboration between mandated reports and investigating agencies.

What is Considered Child Abuse or Neglect?

California defines child abuse as any act that results in physical or emotional harm to a child. Examples of child mistreatment include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse

Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, or causing bodily harm to a minor. Sexual abuse may involve any sexual act with a child, including creating or distributing child pornography. Emotional abuse typically consists of causing psychological harm, such as belittling or threatening.

How to Identify Child Abuse or Neglect

Recognizing a child abuse or neglect victim can be challenging. Children may not always exhibit clear physical signs or be too afraid to talk about what’s happening.

Fortunately, there are some warning signs that you can look for, including:

  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, cuts, and other trauma which cannot be explained by normal accidents or play
  • Changes in behavior, such as when the child suddenly becomes withdrawn, anxious, or depressed (or exhibits aggressive or violent behavior)
  • Fear of going home or behavior that suggest trying to run away
  • Poor hygiene or nutrition
  • Sexual behavior or knowledge beyond their age

It is important to note that these signs do not always indicate abuse or neglect. Still, it is strongly recommended that you take them seriously and report any potential signs of abuse or neglect to the appropriate authorities.

Who Are the Mandated Reporters in California?

Mandatory reporters are individuals required by law to report possible child abuse or neglect cases to the appropriate authorities.

According to the California Penal Code Section 11165.7, if you fall under the following professions, you are considered a mandatory reporter:

  • Social workers and childcare providers, including daycare workers and foster parents
  • Teachers
  • School administrators and other education personnel
  • Medical practitioners, including doctors, nurses, dentists, and psychologists
  • Law enforcement officers, probation officers, and custodial officers
  • Clergy members, including priests, ministers, and rabbis
  • Public service personnel, including firefighters, EMTs, and animal control and humane society officers

Mandated reporters in California are individuals who, as part of their professional duties, are required by law to report suspected or known cases of child abuse or neglect.

The list of mandated reporters in California is extensive and includes the following professions:

  • Teachers, school officials/faculty, and other education employees
  • Childcare providers, including family daycare workers and employees of licensed childcare centers
  • Medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers
  • Mental health professionals, including psychologists, therapists, and social workers
  • Law enforcement officers and probation officers
  • Clergy members, including priests, ministers, and rabbis
  • Athletic coaches, including those who work with school or community sports teams
  • Camp counselors and recreation program staff
  • Commercial film and photographic print processors

It’s important to note that these are just some examples of the professions that are considered mandated reporters in California. Accordingly, even if someone is not specifically listed as a mandated reporter, they may still be required to report suspected child abuse or neglect if there is reasonable cause to believe that abuse or neglect has occurred. Furthermore, if you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, regardless of your chosen profession, it is strongly recommended that you contact law enforcement or Child Protective Services immediately.

What Are the Responsibilities of California Mandated Reporters?

According to the California Penal Code Section 11166, your primary responsibility as a mandated reporter is to report any case of abuse or neglect of children and dependent adults immediately or as soon as possible.

Some of the mandated reporting responsibilities include:

  • You must file a report to any police department or sheriff’s department, county probation department, or county welfare department.
  • Mandated reporters must make the report within 36 hours of receiving information regarding the abuse incident by telephone or through an online reporting system.
  • When making a report, you must provide the following information:
    1. Name, age, and address of the suspected abused or neglected individual
    2. Name and address of the child’s parents or legal guardians
    3. Name of the alleged abuser (if known)
    4. Description of the suspected abuse or neglect incident
    5. Any other information that may be relevant to an investigation

Under the California mandatory reporters law, relevant professionals have certain rights when reporting child maltreatment cases, including protection from civil or criminal liability – as long as the report is made in good faith and without malice.

And while your name will be part of the information required when you make a report, it is confidential. Authorities cannot disclose your identity without your consent (there are some rare exceptions, however, including when you must testify in court or when authorities require your identity as part of an investigation or other legal proceedings if you file a false report).

Finally, while not expressly stated nor required by the California mandatory reporter law, supporting the victim can be an essential part of ensuring their safety and well-being.

As long as you avoid creating conflicts of interest or compromising the investigation, you can provide support to a child abuse or neglect victim by:

  • Listening and believing: The most important thing you can do is to listen to the child and believe what they tell you. It can be difficult for a child to talk about their experiences, so it’s essential to establish a safe and supportive environment for them to do so.
  • Reassure the child: Let them know that what happened wasn’t their fault and that they did the right thing by telling someone.
  • Being supportive: Offer to be there for the child and their family during this difficult time. Let them know you’re there to support them in any way you can, and they’re not alone.
  • Seeking help: While caring for the victim is comendable, you must seek the assistance of appropriate professionals, such as social workers or law enforcement.

What Are the Consequences of Noncompliance?

Under the California Penal Code Section 11166(b), failure to submit a report of suspected child abuse or neglect is a misdemeanor offense. It can result in legal consequences, such as fines and imprisonment.

A mandated reporter who knowingly and willingly failed to file a report of a child mistreatment incident can face up to six of imprisonment and a fine of up to $1,000.

Additionally, a mandatory reporter who intentionally conceals or withholds information about child abuse or neglect can face up to a year of incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000.

Civil Justice for Victims of Child Sexual or Physical Abuse

Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is a full-service child sexual abuse and adult sexual assault firm located in Glendale, California. We fight aggressively for justice on behalf of survivors of child sex abuse. Led by Sam Dordulian, a former sex crimes prosecutor and Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney, DLG offers victims an opportunity to secure civil justice on their own terms.

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Dordulian and his team of Los Angeles sexual abuse lawyers have successfully secured more than $100,000,000.00 in settlements and verdicts for clients like you. Additionally, Sam Dordulian is one of California’s most experienced litigators, with over 100 jury trial victories obtained – including many leading to life sentences for sex offenders.

Contact DLG today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM to for a free child sexual abuse consultation. We are here to answer any questions you have and help you take the first step toward obtaining the justice and maximum financial compensation you deserve.

Go See Sam