Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego
The California Child Abuse &
Neglect Reporting Law
Issues and Answers for Mandated
Rev. 6/2012
Rev. 6/2012
The Chadwick Center and Office of Child Abuse Prevention are grateful to Eliana
Gil, Ph.D., for the work she did as the original author of this publication. We also
wish to acknowledge the following people for their contributions: Diane Nissen,
MSW, Allyson Kohl, LMFT; Catharine J. Ralph, LCSW; Kim Ralph, MSW, and Patty
Lough, MSW, LCSW, Ph.D.
Revised by Lisa McCulloch, LCSW
Chadwick Center for Children and Families
Rady Children’s Hospital
Rev. 6/2012
Rev. 6/2012
Table of Contents
The Reporting Law
Environmental Factors
Parent/Caregiver Clues
Physical Indicators (Child)
Behavioral Indicators (Child)
Guidelines to Determining Reasonable Suspicion
Cultural Considerations
Talking to Children
What to Tell Parents/Caretakers
Profession-Specific Information
Child Care Professionals
Law Enforcement
Medical Professionals
Mental Health Professionals
Children With Disabilities
Major Treatment Issues (for Therapists)
Frequently Asked Questions
References and Resources
Appendix A- Suspected Child Abuse Report (Form SS 8572) and Instructions
Appendix B- Sample Confidentiality Statements and Agreement
Appendix C- Chart summarizing sexual abuse reporting requirements based on the age difference
between the partner and the minor
Appendix D- Statewide and National Resources
Appendix E- Profession-Specific References/Resources
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This handbook was originally written to help mental health professionals understand the Child Abuse
Reporting Law and their reporting responsibilities, and to identify and address major treatment issues. This
revised edition also includes issues specific to various other professionals, specifically: child care providers,
clergy, educators, law enforcement, and medical professionals. Information about working with children with
disabilities and the mandated reporting process is also included.
For the mandated reporter, making a report of suspected child abuse can be difficult. Concerns about how
the person suspected of abusing a child will react, what the outcome will be, and whether or not the report
will put the child at greater risk are often present. The best way to minimize the difficulty of reporting is to
be fully prepared for the experience. Mandated reporters should be knowledgeable about reporting
requirements and the process that is triggered when a report is made. Responding to suspected child abuse
requires a team effort involving professionals from a variety of disciplines including child protection workers,
law enforcement, medical personnel, and mental health professionals.
Information contained in this publication is offered as an aid to mandated reporters in reporting suspected
child abuse. It clarifies basic information. It is not meant to be all-inclusive or to cover all situations, nor
should it be considered legal advice. Because mandated reporters include individuals in a variety of
professions, it is important to be educated about protocols and issues specific to your profession. When in
doubt about what to do in a particular situation, contact your local child welfare agency and/or law
enforcement agency. Additional resources, including toll free numbers and web sites, are listed in the
Appendix section.
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The Reporting Law
The first child abuse reporting law in California, enacted in 1963, pertained only to physicians. It mandated
that physicians report evidence of physical abuse. As knowledge and understanding of child abuse increased
over time, it became evident that other professionals might also be in a position to identify maltreatment.
This led to a substantial increase in the number of professional groups designated in state laws as mandated
reporters. The expansion of the ranks of mandated reporters was accompanied by a broadening of the
concept of reportable maltreatment to include sexual abuse, emotional maltreatment, and neglect.
The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) was passed in 1980. Over the years, numerous
amendments have expanded the definition of child abuse and the persons required to report. Procedures for
reporting have also been clarified. In California, certain professionals are required to report known or
suspected child abuse. Other citizens, though not required by law to report, may also do so. It is important
for mandated reporters to stay abreast of periodic amendments in the law. Your local Child Abuse Prevention
Council or Child Protective Agency has current reporting law information.
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1. Why Must You Report?
The primary intent of the reporting law is to protect the child. Protecting the identified victim may also
provide the opportunity to protect other potential victims. It is equally important to provide help for the
suspected abuser. The report of abuse may be a catalyst for bringing about change in the home
environment, which in turn may lower the risk of abuse.
2. What is Child Abuse?
Child abuse and neglect, as defined in CANRA, includes: physical abuse, sexual abuse (including both sexual
assault and sexual exploitation), willful cruelty or unjustified punishment, unlawful corporal punishment or
injury, and neglect (including both acts and omissions).
Under current law, child abuse does not include
· “A mutual affray between minors.” (PC 11165.6)
· “Reasonable and necessary force used by a peace officer acting within the course and scope of his
or her employment as a peace officer.” (PC 11165.4)
· “An amount of force that is reasonable and necessary for a person employed by or engaged in a
public school to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to person or damage to property, for
purposes of self-defense, or to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects within the
control of the pupil.” (PC 11164.5)
In addition, “A child receiving treatment by spiritual means…or not receiving specified medical treatment for
religious reasons, shall not for that reason alone be considered a neglected child. An informed and
appropriate medical decision made by parent or guardian after consultation with a physician or physicians
who have examined the minor does not constitute neglect.” (PC 11165.2[b])
3. What to Report
The California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting ACT (CANRA) can be found in California Penal Code
Sections 11164 - 11174.3. The following is a partial description of the statute. Mandated reporters should
become familiar with the detailed requirements as they are set forth in CANRA.
Under the law, when the victim is a child (a person under the age of 18) and the perpetrator is any person
(including a child), the following types of abuse must be reported by all legally mandated reporters:
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Physical abuse (PC 11165.6) is defined as physical injury inflicted by other than accidental means on a child,
or intentionally injuring a child.
Child sexual abuse (PC 11165.1) includes sexual assault or sexual exploitation of anyone under the age of
18. Sexual assault includes sex acts with children, intentional masturbation in the presence of children, and
child molestation. Sexual exploitation includes preparing, selling, or distributing pornographic materials
involving children; performances involving obscene sexual conduct; and child prostitution.
Willful cruelty or unjustified punishment (PC 11165.3) includes inflicting or permitting unjustifiable physical
pain or mental suffering, or the endangerment of the child’s person or health. “Mental suffering” in and of
itself is not required to be reported; however, it may be reported. Penal Code11166.05 states: “Any
mandated reporter who has knowledge of or who reasonably suspects that mental suffering has been
inflicted upon a child or that his or her emotional well-being is endangered in any other way may report the
known or suspected instance of child abuse or neglect to an agency specified in Section11165.9”. (The
specified agencies include any police department, sheriff’s department, county probation department, if
designated by the county to receive mandated reports, or the county welfare department.)
Unlawful corporal punishment or injury (PC 11165.4), willfully inflicted, resulting in a traumatic condition.
Neglect (PC11165.2) of a child, whether “severe” or “general,” must also be reported if the perpetrator is a
person responsible for the child’s welfare. It includes both acts and omissions that harm or threaten to harm
the child’s health or welfare.
General neglect means the failure of a caregiver of a child to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter,
medical care, or supervision, where no physical injury to the child has occurred.
Severe neglect means the intentional failure of a caregiver to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or
medical care where injury has occurred or is likely to occur. Severe neglect also includes those situations of
neglect where any person having the care or custody of a child willfully causes or permits the person or
health of the child to be placed in a situation such that his or her person or health is endangered.
Any of the above types of abuse or neglect occurring in out-of-home care must also be reported (PC
11165.5). (For a discussion of newborns with a positive toxicology screen, or for information on child abuse
in relation to domestic violence, see the “Frequently Asked Questions” section.)
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4. Who Reports?
Under CANRA, legally mandated reporters include, but are not limited to
· Clergy Members (i.e., 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
· Child Care Providers (e.g., an administrator of a public or private day camp; an administrator or
employee of public or private youth center, recreation program, or organization; a licensee,
administrator, or employee of licensed community care or child day care facility; an employee of a
child care institution (foster parents, group home personnel, personnel of residential care facilities))
· Educators (e.g., teachers; instructional aides; teachers aides or assistants employed by any public or
private school; classified employees of any public school; administrative officers or supervisors of
child welfare and attendance, or certificated pupil personnel employees of any public or private
school; any employee of a County Office of Education or the State Department of Education whose
duties require direct contact and supervision of children; Head Start Program teachers)
· Law Enforcement (i.e., any employee of any police department, county sheriff’s department, county
probation department, or county welfare department;
peace officers; firefighters (except for
volunteer firefighters); and animal control officers or humane society officers)
· Medical Professionals (e.g., nurses, paramedics, EMT’s, physicians, dentists, chiropractors,
alternative health practitioners, physical therapists
· Mental Health Professionals (e.g., clinical social workers, trainees and interns; marriage, family and
child counselors, trainees and interns; school counselors; psychologists, psychological assistants,
and interns; alcohol and drug counselors)
· Commercial Film and Photographic Print Processors
A complete list of mandated reporters is provided in the California Penal Code (PC) section 11165.7.
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5. When Do You Report?
Child abuse must be reported when one who is a legally mandated reporter “…has knowledge of or observes
a child in his or her professional capacity, or within the scope of his or her employment whom he or she
knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of child abuse or neglect…” (PC 11166[a]). “Reasonable
suspicion” occurs when “it is objectively reasonable for a person to entertain such 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” (PC 11166[a][1]). Although wordy, the intent of this definition is
clear: if you suspect, report.
Reports must be made immediately, or as soon as practically possible, by phone. A written report must be
forwarded within 36 hours of receiving the information regarding the incident (PC 11166[a]). The written
report must be submitted on a Department of Justice form (SS 8572), which can be obtained at
www.ag.ca.gov/childabuse. Click on the link for forms. Forms can also be obtained from your local police or
sheriff’s department (not including a school district police or security department) or a county welfare
department (PC 11168) or can be printed from Appendix A in this manual.
6. To Whom Do You Report?
The report must be made to a county welfare department, probation department (if designated by the county
to receive mandated reports), or to a police or sheriff’s department, not including a school district police or
security department (PC 11165.9). Reports by commercial print and photographic print processors are to be
made to the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the case (PC 11166[e]).
7. Joint Knowledge – Who Reports?
When two or more mandated reporters jointly have knowledge of suspected child abuse or neglect, a single
report may be made by the selected member of the reporting team. Any member of the reporting team who
has knowledge that the designated person has failed to report must do so him or herself (PC 11166[h]).
8. Safeguards for Mandated Reporters
In order to protect mandated reporters from repercussions for reporting as required, CANRA includes
specific safeguards as follows:
§ Those persons legally mandated to report suspected child abuse have immunity from criminal or
civil liability for reporting as required, even if the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of the abuse or
neglect was acquired outside of their professional capacity or scope of employment. Mandated
reporters and others acting at their direction are not liable civilly or criminally for photographing the
victim and disseminating the photograph with the report. (P.C. 11172(a))
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§ No supervisor or administrator may impede or inhibit a report or subject the reporting person to any
sanction (PC 11166[f).
§ The identity of the reporting party and the contents of the child abuse report are confidential and
may only be disclosed to specified persons and agencies (PC 11167[d][1]; PC 11167).
§ In the event a civil action is brought against a mandated reporter as a result of a required or
authorized report, he or she may present a claim to the State Board of Control for reasonable
attorney’s fees incurred in the action if he or she prevails in the action or the court dismisses the
action (PC 11172 [c].)
9. Penalties for Failure to Report
A person who fails to make a required report is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in
county jail and/or up to a $1000 fine (P.C. 11166[c]). He or she may also be found civilly liable for damages,
especially if the child-victim or another child is further victimized because of the failure to report (Landeros
vs. Flood (1976) 17C.3d399). Furthermore PC 11166.01[b] states that “any mandated reporter who willfully
fails to report abuse or neglect, or any person who impedes or inhibits a report of abuse or neglect… where
that abuse or neglect results in death or great bodily injury, shall be punished by not more than one year in
a county jail, by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both that fine and
10. Feedback to Reporter
After the investigation has been completed or the matter reaches a final disposition, the investigating agency
shall inform the mandated reporter of the results of the investigation and any action the agency is taking
(P.C. 11170(b)(2)).
11. After the Report is Made
Child protection workers and/or law enforcement officers may contact you to gather additional information
to aid in their investigation. You may have knowledge about the child and/or family which can aid the
investigators in making accurate assessments and providing appropriate services. It is important to know the
policies and procedures regarding confidentiality and release of information for your profession, and to keep
written documentation of all contacts.
Substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect may be litigated in criminal court, family court, juvenile court,
and other legal arenas. When these cases go to court, mandated reporters may be asked to provide
testimony. You may receive a subpoena requiring you to appear in court to testify as to the context and
content of the child’s disclosure of abuse. It is important that you are familiar with your agency’s procedures
for receiving and responding to subpoenas.
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Identifying evidence of child abuse requires first the understanding that child abuse can occur in any family,
regardless of socio-economic status, religion, education, ethnic background, or other factors. Secondly, the
professional must be aware of and alert to the signs of child abuse. Red flags for abuse and neglect are
often revealed in environmental problems, individual parent or caregiver behaviors, family interactions, and
physical and behavioral indicators in the child. A brief overview of some of these warning signals follows:
Environmental Problems
· Hazardous conditions (broken windows, faulty electrical fixtures, etc.)
· Extreme dirt or filth
· Medications, cleaners, toxins within reach of a child
· Guns or other weapons that are not properly secured
· Trash, rotted food, insects, or animal waste
· Choking hazards within reach of an infant or toddler
Parental or Caregiver Red Flags
· Parent lacks understanding of normal child behaviors and development:
o Has unrealistic expectations of child (e.g., toilet-training of a six-month-old)
o Is unduly harsh and rigid about childrearing
o Singles out one child as “bad”, “evil”, or “beyond control”
o Attributes badness to child or misinterprets child’s normal behavior (e.g., interprets an
infant’s crying as evidence that the child hates the parent)
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o Tells you of use of objects (belts, whips, clothes hanger) to discipline the child, or describes
the use of inappropriate or extreme consequences (locking child in a closet, withholding
· Parent lacks understanding of the parent-child relationship and/or perceives child in a negative
o Is unable to describe positive characteristics of child
o Berates, humiliates, or belittles child constantly
o Turns to child to have his/her own needs met
o Is indifferent to child
· Parenting is impaired by:
o Depression or other mental illness
o Substance abuse
o Poverty/unemployment
o Lack of social support
o Domestic violence
o Parental history of abuse or inadequate care (Note: Most abused children do not become
abusive parents.)
Family Interactions
· Coercive parent-child interactions
· Limited positive parent-child interactions
· Heightened family conflicts
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Physical Indicators in the Child
Physical Abuse
· Any injury in an infant, even a small bruise
· Injuries to the back, buttocks, ears, face (particularly the soft tissues of the cheek), neck, and
· Unexplained injuries, or injuries with improbable explanations
· Bruises or burns that are patterned or have a distinctive outline
· Broken bones, lacerations or unexplained bruises
· Burns (cigarette, scalding water, iron)
· Any injury when there is a delay in seeking appropriate medical care
Sexual Abuse
· Complaint of painful urination, defecation
· Difficulty sitting or walking
· Presence of sexually transmitted infection
· Inorganic failure to thrive (failure to gain weight at the expected rate) or a malnourished child
· Inappropriate dress for weather
· Dirty clothes, poor hygiene
· Unattended medical or dental conditions
· Developmental delays
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Behavioral Indicators in the Child
With regard to behavioral indicators, keep in mind that children react differently to being abused, and many
abused children do not exhibit behavioral symptoms. The presence of any of the following indicators does
not prove that a child is being abused but should serve as a warning signal to look further. While some of
these behaviors may occur more with one type of abuse than another, they may overlap.
Child red flags for abuse/neglect include:
· Anxiety
· Depression, self-mutilation, suicidal gestures/attempts
· Low self-esteem
· Social maladjustment: Delinquent behavior (such as running away from home), use of alcohol or
other drugs, academic/behavioral problems in school
· Other significant behavioral changes
Physical Abuse
· Hostile, aggressive or verbally abusive towards others
· Fearful or withdrawn behavior
· Destructiveness (breaks windows, sets fires, etc.)
· Out-of-control behavior/poor anger management
· Wariness of adults
· Discomfort when other children cry
· Fear of parents/caretakers or of going home
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Sexual Abuse
The single most important indicator of sexual abuse is disclosure by the child. However, the nature of
sexual abuse, the guilt and shame of the child victim, and the possible involvement of parents, stepparents,
friends or others in a caretaker role, make it extremely difficult for children to report sexual abuse. It is not
unusual for children to delay weeks, months, or even years before disclosing sexual abuse. In addition,
sometimes a child who seeks help is accused of making up stories. Many people may not believe the victim
because the abuser is well-liked and others cannot believe he or she could be capable of sexual abuse.
When the matter does come to the attention of authorities, the child may give in to pressure from parents or
caretakers and deny that sexual abuse has occurred. The child may feel guilty about "turning in" the abuser
or breaking up the family, and recant or change his or her story.
Although this pattern of denial is typical, it may result in skepticism when a child discloses sexual abuse.
The sad reality of sexual abuse is that without third-party reporting, the child often remains trapped in
secrecy by shame, fear, and threats by the abuser. It is important to recognize that children rarely fabricate
these accounts; they should be taken seriously.
In addition, mandated reporters must stay alert and responsive to children’s behaviors that are associated
with sexual abuse. Although children frequently find it difficult to report they are being abused, they often
develop coping mechanisms and behaviors which bring them to the attention of others. Red flag behaviors
indicative of possible sexual abuse include
· Sexualized behavior and/or knowledge beyond developmental expectations
· Fearful or withdrawn behavior
· Changes in eating, sleeping or toileting (e.g., bedwetting, fecal soiling)
· Extreme compliance or defiance
· Emotional and/or behavioral problems
Possible symptoms of child neglect are often difficult to identify as they are less defined than those for
physical or sexual abuse. Observation, home visits, and/or the child’s description of his or her living
situation may be necessary to identify sufficient circumstances for reporting suspicions of neglect. It is
important to remember, however, that these indicators should be evaluated in the context of the family’s
culture, values and economic situation. Behavioral indicators of possible neglect include
· Clingy or indiscriminate attachment
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· Socially withdrawn
· Internalized emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depression
Emotional Abuse
Although emotional abuse is not as clearly defined in the law as other forms of maltreatment, it is generally
recognized as a pattern of behavior by a caretaker that impairs a child's emotional and/or psychological
development. This may include constant criticism, threats, rejection, intimidation or humiliation, acts
intended to produce fear or guilt, withholding of love and support, and isolation. Witnessing of domestic
violence also falls within the scope of emotional abuse. Reasonable suspicion of emotional abuse that must
be reported often results from verbal disclosures or direct observation and involves any person willfully
causing or permitting any child to suffer unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or endangering the
child’s person or health (Penal Code 11165.3).
In the absence of a verbal disclosure or direct observation, suspicions of abuse may be reported when
behavioral indicators alert the professional to suspect emotional abuse. Emotional and behavioral problems,
in varying degrees, are common among children whose parents abuse them emotionally. Attention deficits,
school difficulties, and poor social skills are among the most common. Penal Code 11166.05 provides that,
“Any mandated reporter who has knowledge of or who reasonably suspects that a child is suffering serious
emotional damage or is at a substantial risk of suffering serious emotional damage, evidenced by states of
being or behavior, including, but not limited to, severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal, or untoward
aggressive behavior towards self or others, may make a report…” These emotional and behavioral patterns
may, of course, be due to other causes, but the suspicion of abuse should not be dismissed. Emotional
abuse is often difficult to prove; cumulative documentation by a child protection agency may be necessary
for effective intervention. Finally, emotional abuse is most often reported along with concerns of other types
of abuse; any child who is being physically abused, sexually abused, or neglected is also being emotionally
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Guidelines for Determining Reasonable Suspicion
Reporting laws require a report be made when a mandated reporter has a “reasonable suspicion” of abuse.
This criterion is intended to ensure that a maximum number of abused children are identified and protected.
Judging what constitutes a “reasonable suspicion” in practice, however, can be difficult. In the absence of
clear physical indicators or verbal reports of abuse, professionals must rely on direct observations of children
and families to determine when a report should be made.
Making an assessment of possible child abuse entails collecting information in order to determine what the
problem is, who is involved, and how to proceed. When evaluating a concern, it is important to maintain a
clear distinction between determining whether there are grounds for reasonable suspicion and conducting an
investigation of the allegations. Only a child protective agency or county designee can conduct the
Cultural Considerations
It is important to keep in mind cultural influences when assessing information or behavior, and to avoid
allowing personal beliefs or biases to influence decision-making. Culture is shaped by many factors
including race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, disability status, immigration status, religion, age,
nationality, and language. However, it is important to remember that this information is only a
generalization and should not be used to stereotype. There is much heterogeneity within each cultural
Culture shapes attitudes and ideas about acceptable child behavior and discipline, and influences reactions
to stress, trauma, and abuse. Furthermore, cultural differences may become evident in various aspects of
child-rearing. For example, a family might have an attitude towards nudity that is more relaxed than is
typical, but that in itself does not indicate sexual impropriety. The same can be said for family sleeping,
which is common in some cultures. Parents might choose alternative forms of medicine for their children,
including religious or spiritual healing, but this does not necessarily constitute neglect (P.C. 11165.2). Some
families have a highly authoritarian structure and consider corporal punishment, such as spanking, an
acceptable disciplinary measure. Other families consider the corporal punishment of children to be
unacceptable under any circumstances. In addition, stereotypes concerning age and gender can influence
reporting. For example, cases involving teenage boy victims may be least likely to be reported.
In order to work with people with various cultural identities in a way that promotes respect and dignity,
mandated reporters must
· Recognize and reject own preexisting beliefs and biases
· Become educated about the culture(s) with whom you are working
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· Focus on understanding information provided by individuals within the context at hand
· Remember to keep in mind cultural influences when assessing information or behavior
· Resist the temptation to classify or label persons based on cultural preconceptions
· Educate individuals/families from other cultures regarding American cultural expectations, practices,
and traditions
There may be times when you must decide whether to report child abuse, try to educate the parents, or
simply accept a questionable practice as "different" but not harmful. If the practice falls within the legal
definitions of child abuse, it must be reported. If you are unsure whether what you have seen or heard is
abuse, call a child protective agency for advice.
Talking with Children
You may become concerned about possible child abuse by observation of physical signs, by a child’s
behavior, or by a child’s verbal disclosure. If you observe physical signs of abuse, employ only open-ended
questions when asking the child about it. For example, if a child displays unusual bruising, ask “How did you
get hurt?” rather than “Did your father do that? or “Who hit you?”. If it is the child’s behavior that concerns
you, ask the child privately whether there is anything going on that is making the child angry or unhappy.
Among younger school-age children, verbal disclosures sometimes occur by accident, or the child may tell
another child who then tells you. However it is disclosed, do not be dissuaded from reporting the situation if
the child recants his or her statements. It is very common for a child who discloses abuse to then deny it out
of fear of reprisal or of breaking up the family.
When talking with children about possible abuse, the following guidelines should be followed:
The Setting
o Conduct the discussion in private
o Sit next to the child, rather than behind a table or desk
o Conduct the discussion in language the child understands
o Talk with the child away from parents/guardians/suspects or other potentially influential people.
Gathering Information
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o Remember to manage your own emotional response; do not express shock, disapproval, or disgust
regarding the child, parent, or disclosure
o Allow the child to tell you of their experience in their own words; refrain from asking leading or
suggestive questions
Common Mistakes to Avoid
o Do not introduce new terminology or information, especially when dealing with allegations of sexual
o Be aware that children’s understanding of the concept of time is often limited, and information
about when and how often an incident occurred is best obtained from adults familiar with the child’s
o Do not paraphrase. Allow the child to tell of his/her experience in his/her own words, and then
document what the child says.
Finally, avoid making unrealistic promises to a child. For example, a child may ask you to promise not to tell
anyone else of their disclosure. Mandated reporters must report suspicions of abuse. Therefore, it is
important to let the child know what you will do as a result of the disclosure, explaining who you will tell and
why. It is also important to reassure the child that he or she is not to blame for the abuse and that he or she
deserves praise for having the courage to reveal the abuse.
What to Tell Parents/Caretakers
One of the biggest obstacles to reporting may be the feelings of the potential reporter. It is important to
remember that the intention of a child abuse report is to protect a child, not punish the family. When a
report is made, child protective agency workers can investigate and, when appropriate, intervene to provide
services and education for parents.
Concerns about the caretaker’s reaction to the report can also be a deterrent to reporting, and should be
addressed. Although the identities of mandated reporters are confidential, mandated reporters often worry
about repercussions, including being confronted by angry parents. Remember that becoming involved with
investigatory agencies is often a confusing and perplexing experience for parents or caregivers. When
confronted with an angry parent, it is important to remain calm and maintain a professional demeanor.
Listening to and normalizing a parent’s feelings while expressing appropriate concern and respect may help
diffuse the situation. Informing the parent of your status as a mandated reporter during your initial contact
may also help to alleviate some of this concern.
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Deciding whether or not to tell a parent that you plan to report or already have reported child abuse can be a
difficult decision. Although there are no legal guidelines for mandated reporters to follow in making this
decision, keep in mind that your first priority is establishing the safety of the child. Any information that
suggests that informing the parent(s) could increase the risk of further abuse to the child should be
considered. Also, be aware that such action could interfere with the initial child welfare agency’s
investigation. For example, a parent might intimidate a child into recanting allegations and/or flee to avoid
contact with investigators. It is important to advise the child welfare staff if a child is afraid to go home, may
be at risk of harm due to disclosing the abuse, or may be under pressure to change or retract his or her
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Profession-Specific Information
Child Care Professionals
Child Care Licensing
Although the regulations for Family Child Care and Child Care Centers in California are somewhat different,
both require that new child care workers obtain a criminal record clearance or exemption and also complete
the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI) check.
According to Title 22, Division 12, Chapter 3 of the Manual of Policies and Procedures for Community Care
Licensing, licensees must report to the Department by telephone or fax “any child injury requiring medical
treatment; any unauthorized child absence; any suspected child abuse or neglect;…” The initial report must
be followed by a written report within seven days. Licensees are also required to “notify a child’s parent or
authorized representative, as soon as possible but no later than the same business day, of any injury
suffered by a child in care, any cases of violence in the home, and any dangerous activity such as illegal drug
use or gunfire.”
Reports made to the Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing, are supplemental to reports
that must be made to local child protection agencies in cases of suspected child abuse and neglect.
Reporting to Community Care Licensing alone does not fulfill the mandated reporting requirements for child
abuse and neglect.
Red Flags for Abuse in the Child Care Setting
Although there are many protections in place to help ensure the safety of children in the child care setting, it
is important to be aware that abuse and neglect in daycare settings do occur, and account for up to three
percent of all confirmed cases in a given year. Child care professionals should be educated about child
development in order to establish age-appropriate expectations and discipline. Child care professionals are
never to use corporal punishment, even if they have the parents’ permission to do so. Red flag behaviors to
be aware of in the child care setting are similar to parental indicators previously covered, and include
· Provider has unrealistic expectations of the child
· Provider is unduly harsh or rigid
· Provider berates, humiliates or belittles a child
· Provider yells or screams at children
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· Provider exhibits inappropriate interest in a specific child
· Provider engages in inappropriate physical contact (e.g., forcing a child to hug or kiss him/
Supervisors who witness inappropriate behaviors by child care staff should document observations, and
should meet with the staff member to address their concerns and establish a performance improvement
plan. Termination of the staff member may be necessary if behavior that is detrimental to the children does
not improve.
Physical Contact With Children
As adults in constant contact with children, child care providers must be aware of what is considered
appropriate vs. inappropriate physical contact with children. Physical contact can be a positive gesture or
affirmation when used appropriately. It is important to realize, however, that what is considered appropriate
varies among individuals and is affected by such factors as age, gender, personal experience and cultural
background. Touching is always a concern if it is done in secrecy or isolation from others or for the sexual
gratification of the adult, and children need to be informed and empowered about what is appropriate and
inappropriate touching.
When Abuse is Suspected in the Child Care Setting
As a child care provider, you and other staff are responsible for the well-being and safety of the children in
your care. If you become aware that a colleague has done something that could be considered abusive or
neglectful, you are required to report your suspicions. In addition, termination of the staff member may be
required. It is important that you be knowledgeable about appropriate termination procedures.
California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act was amended in 1997 to add members of the clergy to
the list of mandated reporters. The Act further mandates that “any custodian of records of a clergy member”
must report suspected child abuse. The reporting requirements and protections for clergy members are
identical to the requirements and protections for other mandated reporters, except for the provision
exempting suspicions of child maltreatment acquired during a “penitential communication” from the
mandate to report. However, “Nothing in this subdivision shall be construed to modify or limit a clergy
member's duty to report known or suspected child abuse or neglect when the clergy member is acting in
some other capacity that would otherwise make the clergy member a mandated reporter” (PC 11166 (d) (2)).
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Penitential Communications
“’Penitential communication’ means a communication, intended to be in confidence, including, but not
limited to, a sacramental confession, made to a clergy member who, in the course of the discipline or
practice of his or her church, denomination, or organization, is authorized or accustomed to hear those
communications, and under the discipline, tenets, customs, or practices of his or her church, denomination,
or organization, has a duty to keep those communications secret” (PC 11166(d)(1)(a)).
It is generally expected that personal matters divulged to clergy are held in confidence, but a moral as well
as legal obligation to report exists when there is the possibility that a child is being harmed. In California,
penitential communications are exempt from the requirement to report suspected abuse or neglect.
However, the clergy-penitent privilege is typically interpreted narrowly by the courts in the context of child
maltreatment. In addition, California Evidence Code Section 1032 provides a qualification to this exemption:
“As used in this article, ‘penitential communication’ means a communication made in confidence
in the
presence of no third person so far as the penitent is aware, to a member of the clergy…”
No matter how strictly the clergy member’s faith tradition protects confidentiality, pastoral resources should
be utilized to help protect children. Because the behavior of offenders often escalates over time if it is not
stopped, effective intervention by child protection agencies is often the only motivation for the abuser to
begin recovery. Rarely have strong words by a clergy member been effective in stopping an offender’s
behavior, yet spiritual guidance can be transformational during the necessary psychological treatment the
offender usually requires. Faith communities can also provide support to the families of both offenders and
victims - but not if the abuse is kept secret.
Due to the nature of child abuse, it is more likely that a disclosure of abuse will be made by a child or family
member seeking assistance than by the suspect’s voluntary confession. In these situations, though
confidentiality is still a concern, the communication may not fall under the exemption provided by the clergy
-penitent privilege. Therefore, it is crucial that mandated reporters inform families of the limits of
confidentiality and address concerns about how the decision to report may impact their relationship.
Policies and Procedures for Congregations
There are many ways to make your religious institution a safe place where members can receive information
and assistance when dealing with issues of child maltreatment. The following are some suggestions to break
the silence that frequently surrounds the issues of child abuse in the faith community:
· Incorporate information about child abuse into your worship services
· Include those affected by family violence in your congregational prayers
· Provide support groups, educational opportunities, and/or respite care for parents
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· Provide training and support for staff and volunteers who work with children (e.g., youth leaders,
teachers, child care providers) regarding child abuse reporting
· Screen staff and volunteers who work with children
· Provide immediate and appropriate response to concerns or allegations of child abuse
Your religious institution should have a protocol detailing how suspected maltreatment is to be reported.
These protocols delineate what information the clergy member will need to provide when reporting, and who
is responsible for making the report. While the protocol may direct staff to refer all suspicions to a
designated clergyperson who will then make the suspected child abuse report, remember that as a mandated
reporter you are responsible for ensuring that the report is made.
It is important that your policy’s section for responding to allegations of abuse includes procedures for
handling allegations or rumors against staff or volunteers. Effective response procedures should include
guidelines to ensure that
· All concerns and allegations are taken seriously and receive a response, with due respect for the
individual’s privacy and confidentiality
· Suspected abuse or neglect of children is reported to the proper authorities, as required by state
· The accused volunteer or employee is suspended pending the results of the investigation
· The confidentiality of all involved (e.g., victims, families, the accused) is maintained within the
scope of the investigation, and accusatory attitudes or statements are avoided
Educators have both professional and legal mandates to report suspected child abuse. According to
Education Code 32282, “The comprehensive school safety plan shall include, but not be limited to…
Identifying appropriate strategies and programs that will…address the school's procedures for complying
with existing laws (related to) child abuse reporting procedures consistent with Article 2.5 (commencing with
Section 11164) of Title 1 of Part 4 of the Penal Code.”
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law
that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under
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an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. Under FERPA, parental consent is usually
required before releasing information contained in school records. However, there are exceptions that can
apply in cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without
parental consent, to “appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies” (34 CFR § 99.31). When
disclosing personally identifiable information from education records under this exception, the educational
agency or institution must document the threat to the health or safety of a student that led to the disclosure,
and to whom the disclosure was made.
Corporal Punishment
In addition to the mandates of the Child Abuse Reporting Act, you should be aware of Education Code
provisions relevant to corporal punishment:
44807. Educators may exercise reasonably necessary physical control over a pupil to maintain order,
protect property, protect the health and safety of pupils, or maintain conditions conducive to
49000. Children have the same protection against corporal punishment as adults.
49001. (a) “Corporal punishment” means the willful infliction of physical pain on a pupil. A
reasonable amount of force used to quell a disturbance threatening physical injury to persons or
damage to property, to obtain control of weapons or other dangerous objects, or in self-defense, is
not construed as corporal punishment. Physical pain or discomfort caused by voluntary athletic
competition or recreation is not construed as corporal punishment.
49001. (b) Educators may not inflict corporal punishment on a pupil. The Education Code’s
prohibition of corporal punishment supersedes any other authority.
In summary, a reasonable degree of physical control, when necessary to maintain order or protect property,
health and safety, is permitted. Corporal punishment never is.
Physical Contact With Students
As adults in constant contact with children, educators must be aware of what is considered appropriate vs.
inappropriate physical contact with a child in everyday classroom interactions. Physical contact can be a
positive gesture or affirmation when used appropriately. It is important to realize, however, that what is
considered appropriate varies among individuals and is affected by such factors as age, gender, personal
experience and cultural background. Touching is always a concern if it is done in secrecy or isolation from
others or for the sexual gratification of the educator, and children need to be informed and empowered
about what is appropriate and inappropriate touching.
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When Abuse is Suspected in the Educational Setting
When a child is in school or involved in a school-related activity, teachers and other staff are responsible for
the care of that child. If you become aware that a colleague has done something that could be considered
abusive or neglectful, you are required to report your suspicions.
Failure to Report
The Penal Code provides for mandated reporter’s confidentiality as well as immunity from civil or criminal
liability when making a legally mandated child abuse report. (P.C. 11172 [a]). However, educators risk both
criminal and civil liability for failure to report. In addition, educators who fail to report may also risk loss of
their license or credential (Ed. Code, 44421).
Law Enforcement
Unlike other criminal investigations, child abuse investigations require a multi-disciplinary approach, with
each agency maintaining its own purpose, methods, and goals for intervention. The primary role of law
enforcement in child abuse investigations is to investigate crimes and refer those believed to be responsible
for the crime for criminal prosecution. Child welfare agencies focus on protecting children from further
abuse and neglect and maintaining the integrity of the family. While at times these goals can appear to
conflict, it is essential that agencies work together to minimize unnecessary duplication of effort while
conducting a thorough and expeditious investigation which will result in the optimal response for the child
and family.
Penal Code 11166(k) requires law enforcement agencies, when responding to a report of possible child
abuse, to cross-report to the local child protection agency immediately or as soon as practically possible so
that the case can be evaluated and a protective service worker assigned. The report may be made by
telephone, fax or electronic transmission. Telephone reports must be followed by a written report within 36
hours. In cases where the law enforcement agency received the report of child abuse from the child
protection agency, the officer does not need to cross-report the allegations.
In addition to child abuse reporting, law enforcement officers’ roles include providing education and
advocacy aimed at prevention of child maltreatment, support for child protection services (for example, when
responding to dangerous locations and/or individuals, or when it is necessary to remove a child from his/her
home), immediate response to reports of child abuse/neglect, and ongoing child abuse investigation. As a
first responder, law enforcement officers are tasked with determining if there is probable cause to believe a
crime has occurred, documenting observations and collecting evidence, and determining what notifications
will need to be made in order for further investigation to proceed.
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Medical Professionals
When evaluating a child with injuries, healthcare professionals must always be aware of the possibility of
abuse or neglect. A delay in seeking medical care, changing stories as to how the injury was sustained,
and/or an implausible explanation for the mechanism of injury should always raise suspicion. In addition,
when determining whether an injury was accidental or inflicted, the following information should be
Observation of bruises in young infants is uncommon and should prompt a full evaluation for other
injuries as well as a report to child protective services. While bruising in a young infant should always raise
concern, accidental bruises are expected in older infants and toddlers. For these children, the appearance
and location of the bruise is important when assessing for abuse. Concerning bruises may have a clear
shape (e.g., a belt, cord, or hand). Bruises that have a clear outline or edge without an obvious identifiable
pattern are also uncommon in accidental injuries and suggest that the child was struck with an object.
Common areas that are injured in accidental play include the bony prominences, especially the forehead,
chin, knees, shins, and elbows. Areas that are not commonly bruised accidentally, and are therefore
concerning for inflicted injury, include the ears, neck, abdomen, soft tissues of the cheeks, buttocks, and
Any form of discipline that leaves marks or injuries constitutes physical abuse. These bruises are often
found on areas of the body concealed by clothing, such as the buttocks, and are only revealed through a
thorough skin evaluation which includes undressing the child. Bruises such as these should be reported
for any age child. In addition, excessive or extensive bruising may be caused by severe abuse, and should
also be reported.
Accidental burns, especially scald burns, usually do not have a well-defined border or obvious pattern.
Any burn with clear demarcation or that has a clear shape (e.g., an iron) should raise concern for inflicted
injury. Burns on an area of the body that would have been covered by clothing should also raise suspicion.
Other considerations include determining whether the child could have caused the injury him/herself. In
many cases, the information needed can only be obtained through a complete investigation by a child
protection agency. Therefore, any suspicious injury must be reported.
Burns that appear to be consistent with the history provided but are a result of poor supervision or
negligence by the caretaker should also be reported. Under CANRA, “’Severe neglect’ also means those
situations of neglect where any person having the care or custody of a child willfully causes or permits the
person or health of the child to be placed in a situation such that his or her person or health is
endangered” (PC 1116502(a)).
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The age of the child is one of the most important factors to consider when assessing for abuse. Fractures in
children who are non-ambulatory should always be reported. In addition, skeletal surveys are recommended
for children who are under the age of two when there is concern for abuse or neglect. A skeletal survey
consists of approximately 20 x-rays and should be read by a pediatric radiologist. This is because the most
specific inflicted fractures, specifically rib fractures and classic metaphyseal lesions, are small and require
detailed views.
Some fractures are more concerning for inflicted injury than others. For example, while any fracture in an
infant is concerning, rib fractures and metaphyseal fractures are very specific for inflicted injury. Conversely,
isolated simple skull fractures are more commonly accidental injuries. Consultation with a child abuse
pediatrician may be helpful.
Abusive Head Trauma
Abusive head trauma is a theoretically preventable cause of infant morbidity and mortality. However, because
the symptoms are vague (e.g., vomiting, fussiness, sleepiness, apnea, seizures) and the history provided by
caretakers is usually incomplete, these injuries may go undetected. It is recommended that a head CT be
obtained in infants when there is any concern for inflicted injury. An ophthalmologic exam may also be
indicated to evaluate for retinal hemorrhages when abuse is suspected. Ideally, these children should be
transferred to a pediatric facility for further evaluation.
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy and Pediatric Condition Falsification
Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy is a condition in which a caregiver fabricates and/or induces illness in a
child and repeatedly brings them to medical professionals for evaluation and treatment. The caregiver
usually appears to be very concerned and devoted to the child. The illness is often prolonged or does not
respond as expected to treatment, and the illness or symptoms may only occur in the presence of one
caregiver. Often the child is brought to a number of different providers in different specialties and at
different facilities. The morbidity in this condition may be directly related to the caregiver’s actions, or may
be the result of multiple invasive medical procedures in the search for a diagnosis. In Munchausen Syndrome
by Proxy, the caregiver’s intent is to assume the sick role by proxy. However, because parental intent is not
always clear, this condition is now often called Pediatric Condition Falsification or Medical Child Abuse, which
focuses more on the harm or danger to the child and less on the caregiver’s motivations or intentions. The
diagnosis and evaluation of this disorder can be complex and time-consuming, usually requiring extensive
medical record review. Consultation with a Child Abuse Specialist and/or child protective services is
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Sexual Abuse
Concerns about sexual abuse present in a variety of ways in a healthcare setting. Parents may have
concerns about a child’s unusual sexualized behaviors, they may have concerns about physical findings
such as blood or discharge in their child’s underwear, or a child or teen may disclose sexual abuse. When
sexual abuse is suspected, only a limited initial exam should be performed. It is very important that the
exam not be experienced as traumatic by the child. If there are obvious injuries, or if the last contact with
the suspect was very recent (typically considered less than 3 - 5 days) the child and family should be
referred to a local children’s hospital and/or law enforcement agency so that a forensic exam may be
conducted if necessary. A suspected child abuse report should also be made.
Even in situations when the need for an exam is not acute, the child may need to be referred to a child
abuse specialist for further evaluation. Although injuries are uncommon, a negative preliminary exam
does not mean that a forensic exam is unnecessary. Medical examinations in cases of child sexual abuse
are time sensitive as evidence may be lost with each day and each shower or bath.
Also, it is important to remember that children should not be extensively or repeatedly interviewed about
the incident. It is not unusual for children to be interviewed by medical personnel, law enforcement, child
welfare services, tertiary medical personnel, and their parents. However, this is not considered best
practice; ideally, interviews are coordinated and performed by trained interviewers. Information needed for
initial decision-making can usually be obtained from the parent or caregiver, or by asking the child
minimal questions such as, “What happened?”
Medical/Dental Neglect
Medical neglect includes a delay or failure in accessing health care, noncompliance with health care
recommendations, or refusal of medical treatment. When considering medical neglect, medical professionals
must evaluate whether the family understands the need for medical care and has the necessary resources to
access medical care. Language differences, poverty, or mental illness also may impede the caretaker’s ability
to obtain health care.
Dental neglect has been defined by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry as a willful failure on the
part of the child’s parent or caregiver to seek and follow through with treatment necessary to ensure a level
of oral health essential for adequate function, and freedom from pain and infection. Both medical neglect
and dental neglect should be reported in order to give the investigative agencies the opportunity to assess
the situation and determine the appropriate response.
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Failure to Thrive
“Failure to Thrive” is a diagnosis that is given to an infant or child with either significant weight loss or failure
to gain weight over time. It is most commonly caused by the caregiver not providing adequate calories to
ensure growth due to lack of knowledge, resources, or effort. Failure to thrive can result in psychological and
cognitive delays in development.
Failure to thrive is usually managed by a child’s primary care doctor. If there are concerns that a child is not
gaining weight even after the caregiver has been given appropriate instruction and resources, and a medical
cause has been ruled out, a report of possible neglect may be necessary.
Medical Conditions that Mimic Abuse
When evaluating an injury that is suspicious for abuse, it is important to be aware of medical conditions that
mimic abuse. For example, phytophotodermatitis, mongolian spots, bleeding disorders, impetigo, and staph
-scalded skin infection can mimic inflicted bruises or burns. Medical conditions that mimic abusive fractures
include osteogenesis imperfecta, rickets, and Caffey disease. However, these are uncommon and often
require additional testing to rule out. Certain medical conditions and medications can cause osteopenia.
Examples of these include prematurity, malignancy, prolonged steroid use or chemotherapy, or an older
child that is bed-bound. Children with osteopenia may suffer fractures from routine care or seemingly minor
While medical conditions should be considered, they do not need to be ruled out prior to filing a report. A
child abuse report should be filed while awaiting the results of additional evaluations so as not to delay an
investigation. Consultation with a child abuse pediatrician, dermatologist, or burn specialist may be helpful.
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Mental Health Professionals
Mental health professionals have both an ethical and legal obligation to protect the confidentiality of their
clients. Exceptions to this include reporting cases of suspected child abuse. Therefore, it is crucial that
mental health professionals provide informed consent detailing the limits of confidentiality at the beginning
of the professional relationship. This is best done both verbally and in writing to avoid confusion and ensure
that the client understands the information provided. Concerns about how the decision to report may impact
the therapeutic relationship can be mitigated when the limits of confidentiality have been clearly explained to
the client. In addition, reporting of suspected child abuse can then be incorporated into the therapeutic
context, and does not necessarily jeopardize progress in therapy.
Child protection workers and/or law enforcement officers may contact the reporter to gather additional
information to aid in the investigation. In order to protect confidentiality, information released should be
limited to the information contained in the child abuse report. A signed release of information is necessary
for further interaction between the professional and investigators. Again, keeping written documentation of
all contacts is essential.
Failure to Report
The Penal Code provides for mandated reporter’s confidentiality as well as immunity from civil or criminal
liability when making a legally mandated child abuse report (P.C. 11172 [a]). However, mental health
professionals risk both criminal and civil liability for failure to report. If a professional fails to report
suspected abuse and a child is abused or killed as a result, the professional can be sued for malpractice. In
addition, administrative action may be taken, resulting in suspension or revocation of a practitioner’s license.
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Children With Disabilities
Incidence of Abuse
Children with disabilities are more vulnerable and have greater needs for care than non-disabled children,
putting them at higher risk for abuse and neglect. In a national study conducted in 1993, researchers found
that children with disabilities were 1.7 times more likely to be maltreated than their non-disabled peers
(Crosse et.al.1993). Sullivan and Knutson (2000) found that children with disabilities are 3.44 times more
likely to be maltreated when compared to children without disabilities. Although the numbers vary, other
studies have consistently found an increased incidence of maltreatment for children with disabilities. Sullivan
and Knutson also found that children with disabilities were more likely than their non-disabled peers to
suffer multiple incidents as well as multiple forms of maltreatment. Be aware that children with behavioral
challenges may be at higher risk for physical abuse as caregivers may have unrealistic expectations and
become frustrated. It is crucial that those caring for children with behavioral disorders be educated about the
child’s needs and limitations. Education is also important in order to ensure that a child’s special health care
and educational needs are being met.
Disability-Related Risk Factors for Abuse/Neglect
Children with disabilities
· May be used to having their bodies touched by adults, without their permission, because of their
need for physical assistance
· May be less likely to recognize dangerous situations and therefore less likely, or able, to take
· Are often exposed to multiple caregivers
· May be unable to distinguish abusive from non-abusive acts due to intellectual impairment
· May have impaired communication, making it difficult to disclose abuse
· Are usually taught to be compliant
· Are viewed negatively by society, resulting in isolation and lack of social support
· Are rarely educated about abuse prevention (e.g., personal safety, sex education, human and civil
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Disability Symptoms Mimicking Signs of Abuse
Some disabilities can create symptoms that mimic those of abuse or increase risk of accidental injury.
Professionals must be aware of this possibility when assessing concerns while recognizing that children with
disabilities are at greater risk for abuse. If an injury or behavioral change is erroneously attributed to a
child’s disability, abuse or neglect of that child will be ignored and allowed to continue indefinitely. It is also
important to keep in mind that when an injury is attributable to a child’s disability, the possibility of neglect
should also be evaluated.
What to Do When Abuse is Suspected
Because children with disabilities often have unique communication needs, it is important that mandated
reporters recognize that interviewing these victims requires specialized training. It is especially important to
utilize a collaborative team approach with this population, and to be informed about the issues relevant to
the children with whom you work.
When talking with a child about concerns of abuse or neglect the professional must be aware of the child’s
method of communication. Children with disabilities may be more likely to employ concrete thinking and
have difficulty with abstract concepts. Much like younger children, they may lack the vocabulary to describe
their abusive experience, especially sexual abuse. Due to their socialization, they may be reluctant to
express negative feelings or to “complain” about an adult’s behavior. It is also important to be aware of
· Proximity issues - Space considerations differ for children with different types of disabilities. For
example, a child with autism may need more space, while a child who has a sensory disorder (i.e.,
auditory, visual) may require less space than normal.
· Eye contact - Lack of eye contact may be attributable to a variety of causes, but be aware that
victims with certain types of disabilities may avoid eye contact.
· Touch - Although it may be tempting to touch a child in an attempt to offer sympathy or support, be
aware that some disabilities create a sensitivity to touch. In other cases, children with disabilities
have not been taught appropriate boundaries and are very affectionate, even with strangers. It is
best to limit touching of a child victim unless you have an established relationship with the child and
are aware of his or her needs.
Use of Interpreters
Sometimes a child with a disability uses an alternate method of communication requiring an interpreter.
When using an interpreter the following recommendations should be followed:
· Position yourself so that the child is able to observe both you and the interpreter easily
· Address the victim directly
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· Speak in your regular voice, using a supportive tone and normal volume
· Whenever possible, interpretation should be provided by someone other than a family member or
caretaker, who may be the perpetrator of the abuse.
Hidden Disabilities
Professionals working with children should be alert for the existence of disabilities that have not been
previously identified, either because they are not visible or because behavioral indicators have been
overlooked or misattributed. In addition, all child abuse victims should be evaluated for disabilities.
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Major Treatment Issues
Although this section is intended primarily for therapists, the information provided may be helpful to all
mandated reporters.
Barriers to Reporting
In addition to the barriers previously addressed, mental health professionals must confront and overcome
their own internal barriers to reporting:
Professionals must recognize that child abuse can happen in any family. When professionals do not
acknowledge the possibility of abuse, they miss the opportunity to assess and intervene, leaving
children vulnerable and unprotected.
Another danger is the professional’s acceptance of unrealistic explanations for how an injury
occurred. If any doubt exists, no matter how small, assessment should continue, and/or
consultation should be sought.
Some professionals feel that if they report clients for suspected child abuse they will damage the
client-therapist relationship because of the possible punitive consequences of such reports. If this
notion is held by the professional, parents or caregivers may sense that they are being punished.
Reframing the reporting as helpful to the family, because it will protect the child (and the parents in
the long run) by getting them needed services, may by a more useful approach. While the fear that
reporting will destroy the trust in the therapeutic relationship is understandable, if the report is
made in a clear and nonthreatening way clients will be less likely to feel betrayed. Approaching
suspected abuse as a matter-of-fact mandatory duty to protect children can help in undertaking the
emotionally difficult task of reporting.
Family Breakup
Although relatively few of the large number of child abuse reports lead to the removal of a child
from his/her home, this is often a fear of both parents and children. Although professionals must
guard against giving false assurances, educating the family about the range of possible agency
responses to the situation may be helpful. The current emphasis of child welfare services is on
keeping the family together by providing intensive services. The child will be removed only if the
child protective professionals determine that there is imminent danger to the child or that the
caregivers are unable or unwilling to provide a safe environment for the child.
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The Therapists’ Reactions to Working with Abuse
Everyone has a reaction to child abuse. Some cringe with disgust and anger, and others cry with sadness and
empathy. It is crucial for therapists to examine their own attitudes and feelings toward abusive parents and
abused children. It is possible (and advisable) to acknowledge the discomfort or anger they may feel about
the abuse, and yet prevent these feelings from interfering with their ability to be useful to families in
treatment. Treatment will be ineffective if the therapist expresses angry or judgmental feelings toward the
client, which may reinforce a sense of “badness” or “unworthiness”. Most abusive people have fragile egos
and are very susceptible to criticism. This does not preclude a therapist’s making very strong and clear
statements about the abusive behavior, but these should be made in a way the client can hear. An effective
phrase might be, “I know you love your children and want to teach them to become productive citizens, but it
is not OK for you to hurt them.” It is, of course, crucial for the therapist to provide clients with clear
alternatives to abusive behavior. The tendency to resort to old and familiar (abusive) behavior will persist,
and part of the therapeutic goal is to replace the old behavior with new techniques.
Another mistake therapists sometimes make in working with abusive situations is to see themselves as
“rescuers” of the child. Therapists must remain sensitive to the competitive relationship that may exist
between the abusive parent/caregiver and the therapist regarding the needs of the child. If trust is
established in the therapeutic relationship, the client may see the therapist as a parental figure. The more
trust that is developed, the greater is the client’s need to pull away and make demands by testing the
therapist’s ability to set limits. The client’s dependency needs may also surface, which may cause a
therapeutic crisis in a needy and frightened client. The client needs to experience and build trust and then
needs to be directed toward other people in his or her life with whom a similar experience can be created.
Helpful Tools and Interventions
Confidentiality Statements - Parents and children should be given a confidentiality statement at the
beginning of therapy (See Appendix B). Contrary to the belief of some, providing these statements does not
seem to scare clients away or inhibit them. It is best to include confidentiality statements with other
guidelines regarding the therapeutic relationship. Clients may or may not ask questions related to
confidentiality. However, limits of confidentiality should be explained both verbally and in writing to clients.
The following are some suggested statements therapists could use:
To Parent - What we discuss in therapy is confidential with two exceptions. If I think you are going to hurt
yourself, or if I think you are going to hurt someone else, including your child, I will need to take protective
action which would include contacting the appropriate authorities.
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To Child - What we discuss in therapy is confidential with three exceptions. If I think you are going to hurt
yourself, if I think you are going to hurt someone else, or if I think someone, including your parents, is
hurting you, I will need to let someone know who can provide additional help for you.
In statements about the limits of confidentiality therapists should be certain that their clients are aware that
child abuse, suicide, homicide, and threat of homicide are matters that must be reported if they are
suspected. The Tarasoff vs. Regents of the University of California (1976)17 Cal.3d 425, decision established
that a therapist may be liable for injuries resulting from a failure to report their suspicions regarding these
issues. Of course, these are all circumstances in which the therapeutic and legal arenas overlap, and the
therapist must take substantive action in the best interest of the client or intended victims.
The Use of Contracts - Contracts are written agreements between the therapist and the client. Contracts
specify goals of therapy, with clear behavioral descriptions of expected outcomes. The structure a contract
provides is helpful when working with abusive families; families in crisis respond well to clearly specified
objectives. In addition, families can feel a greater sense of control if they are able to understand what
behavior on their part will lead to their desired outcome. Often the clients are mandated by the court to
attend therapy. In those cases, it is particularly helpful to use contracts so that expectations are clear to all
agencies and individuals involved.
Limit Setting - Reporting suspected child abuse is often an effective way to set clear limits regarding
unacceptable behavior. Clients may feel cared for when a therapist sets limits on the client’s self-destructive
or self-defeating behaviors. Because most abusers do not want to hurt their children, they need to be taught
alternative methods of discipline; reporting can be a way to model the setting of limits.
Use of Authority - Many mental health professionals are trained to encourage clients to draw conclusions
and choose their own direction. In abuse situations, however, the therapist must feel comfortable with his/
her use of authority to maximize safety for parents and children. It may take some time before a mental
health professional is comfortable making reports and explaining this decision to the client. The decision
should be presented in a firm and supportive manner. The therapist can tell the clients that he/she
recognizes their feelings of helplessness and anger and that he/she will be available to help them take some
control over their lives. Offering a matter-of-fact and caring approach counters the message that the abuse
is so repugnant it must be kept hidden, or that the therapist does not take the abuse seriously.
Facing Denial - It is common for abusive parents/caregivers to deny that they have been abusive. This is to
be expected. They have a great deal to protect, and they are usually feeling judged and exposed. When
working with families in which abuse has occurred, the therapist should focus on assessment of strengths,
weaknesses, and concerns based on an understanding of the underlying family dynamics. However, the
therapist must always work within the scope of his or her training and experience. While the therapist can
use the legal system effectively and cooperatively, it is not the therapist’s job to prove culpability or collect
evidence. It is essential for the therapist to create a safe and trusting environment conducive to self-
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disclosure, while consistently raising the issue of denial, being aware that some clients will never admit to
the abuse.
“Stay With” the Client - After a report is made, it is important to continue supportive contact with the client.
Child clients, especially, will benefit from having access to the therapist since frequently they are propelled
into a child welfare system which can be perceived as insensitive and demanding. In addition to coping with
his or her abuse, the child who has been abused may also be dealing with the process of investigation and
prosecution of the abuser. The child may need someone to answer questions about the investigatory or court
processes, and to provide appropriate support and reassurance.
Telling the Client a Report Is Being Made - For clinicians and therapists, deciding whether or not to tell
the suspected abuser that a report is being made is a highly sensitive and complicated issue which
should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
In some cases, telling the client about the report may be therapeutically advisable. In so doing, the
therapist employs clinical leverage by using authority to set a firm and necessary limit. The therapist
can reassure the parent that steps will be taken to help him/her gain control so that the abuse does not
continue or lead to serious injury of the child. If the therapist does not mention the report to the client,
secrecy and tension can result which may lead to the client feeling suspicious, isolated, and betrayed.
While it also can be beneficial to give clients the opportunity to make the report themselves, telling
clients to report does not negate the therapist’s mandate to report.
Informing the client of the report is contraindicated in cases when doing so could increase the risk of
further abuse to the alleged victim. Other risk factors (e.g., if the parent is psychotic, has poor impulse
control coupled with a history of violent behavior, has a problem with alcohol or drugs, or is likely to
flee the area) should also be considered. In addition, telling the abuser that a report is being made can
damage the child abuse investigation. Mandated reporters are not required by law to tell the client a
report of child abuse is being made. When in doubt seek consultation and/or call your local child
protection hotline and ask for assistance.
Consultation/Coordination- Consultation with team members should be sought when there is
uncertainty as to whether or not to report. Once a report is made, coordination of services can decrease
the disruption to the family in crisis and optimize the use of the various agencies’ limited resources.
Case conferences give therapists and other providers the opportunity to identify areas of concern,
establish expectations for change, and define the roles of the many professionals involved in each case.
When a specific plan of action is designed by a multi-disciplinary team and key players are identified, it
is easier to provide clear direction to the parents.
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Potentially Harmful Strategies
Threatening/ Bargaining With Client - Threatening to report abuse may give the client the impression
that reporting is a punishment and that the decision to report is optional. Bargaining, such as saying, “I
won’t report you this time, but if you do it again I’ll have to” sends the message that sometimes it is all
right to be abusive, but other times it is not. The client may find the double message confusing,
resulting in escalation of his/her behavior or unwillingness to continue in treatment. Threats and
bargaining are not options for the reporter. The reporting law states that reports must be made by
those engaged in specified professions when the reporter has reasonable suspicion or knowledge of
child abuse.
Abandoning The Client - After a report is made, it is important to provide ongoing support to the client
throughout the investigation.
Arguing - Many clients will argue that they are not abusive since their own parents did the same or
worse things to them. Have clients describe previous abuse and then explain that the reporting laws
have changed. Let them know that, were their parents’/caregivers’ abusive behavior to occur today, it
would be reportable as child abuse.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How should I decide whether or not to report suspicions of child abuse?
Reporting should be done when a person either knows or suspects that a child has been or is in danger of
abuse or neglect. Hard proof is not needed to make a report. The standard by which a report should be
made is “reasonable suspicion”. 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” (Penal Code
11166 (a) (1)). Verbal disclosures of abuse should always be reported.
However, reports must be made in good faith. Use common sense. A report of child abuse is serious and
may have a lifelong impact on the child and his or her family. Never make a false or malicious report. If you
are in doubt at all about whether to report a particular situation, consult with a colleague and/or telephone
your local child abuse hotline and discuss the situation.
What if I make a mistake?
Dr. C. Henry Kempe, a pioneer in the field of child abuse prevention, once said he would rather apologize to
a parent because he made a mistake about reporting the abuse than apologize to a brain-damaged child
because he did not report. It is better to err in the direction of over-reporting than under-reporting. It is
important to note that mandated reporters are immune pursuant to statute if they make a report in good
faith, but they are liable if they fail to report when they have reasonable suspicion.
May reports be made anonymously?
Persons not legally mandated to report may make anonymous reports. Mandated reporters must identify
themselves when making child abuse reports.
Are volunteers mandated reporters of child abuse?
No. According to Penal Code 11165.7 (b), “… volunteers of public or private organizations whose duties
require direct contact with and supervision of children are not mandated reporters but are encouraged to
obtain training in the identification and reporting of child abuse and neglect and are further encouraged to
report known or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect” to the appropriate agency, with the
exception that any employee or volunteer of a Court Appointed Special Advocate program is also a
mandated reporter.
Furthermore, Penal Code 11166, section (a) states that “a mandated reporter shall make a report
whenever the mandated reporter, in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her
employment, has knowledge of or observes a child whom the mandated reporter knows or reasonably
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suspects has been the victim of child abuse or neglect.” Section (c) further clarifies that “any other person”
who suspects abuse may make a report, and defines “any other person” to include “a mandated reporter
who acts in his or her private capacity and not in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his
or her employment.” However, mandated reporters in these circumstances are strongly encouraged to
report known or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect to the appropriate agency.
What is the fine line between physical abuse and discipline?
Under California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300(a), reasonable and age appropriate spanking
to the buttocks where there is no evidence of serious physical injury does not constitute abuse.
However, if the discipline is excessive or forceful enough to leave injuries, physical abuse has occurred.
The use of instruments increases the likelihood of injuries as does the excessive punishment of young
children. The intent of the reporting law is not to interfere with appropriate parental discipline, but to
respond to extreme or inappropriate discipline which is abusive. If you have reasonable suspicion of
abuse, even with no visible signs, you are required to report.
What if the abuse occurred in the past?
There is no time limitation regarding the reporting of child abuse. If a victim is under age 18, the abuse
must be reported.
What if an adult states that he/she was abused as a child?
The child abuse reporting law mandates a report be made when there is reasonable suspicion or knowledge
that children may be at risk. Therefore, childhood abuse of adults should be reported if there is a reasonable
suspicion that there may be another potential child victim. (This does not impose an investigatory duty on
the professional.)
What happens if the abuser is someone outside the household?
A report of suspected abuse by someone who does not live in the child’s home is made in the same way as
any other report.
At what age is a child most at risk for abuse?
Children of any age may be abused or neglected. However, infants and toddlers are most likely to
sustain serious injuries due to their fragility. Adolescents who are abused may not receive needed help
due to a belief that they provoked their abuse or should have been able to protect themselves from
abusive situations. Despite their age and size, it is important to remember that adolescents are often
just as vulnerable as younger children to physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.
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Does a positive toxicology screen at time of delivery require a child abuse report?
Not necessarily. According to PC 11165.13, “a positive toxicology screen at the time of the delivery of
an infant is not in and of itself a sufficient basis for reporting child abuse or neglect. However, any
indication of maternal substance abuse shall lead to an assessment of the needs of the mother and child
pursuant to Section123605 of the Health and Safety Code. If other factors are present that indicate risk
to a child, then a report shall be made. However, a report based on risk to a child which relates solely to
the inability of the parent to provide the child with regular care due to the parent's substance abuse
shall be made only to a county welfare or probation department, and not to a law enforcement agency.”
Health and Safety Code 123605 provides for the establishment of county protocols to assess the needs of
the mother, child and family, determine the level of risk to the substance exposed infant, and gather data for
information and planning purposes.
The assessment is to be performed by a health practitioner or medical social worker before the infant is
released from the hospital.
Is parental consent required to take photographs of suspicious or concerning injuries to a
Any mandated reporter may take photographs of a child to document abuse without the parent’s or
caregiver’s consent (PC 11172). However, any other use of those photographs is prohibited.
Is parental consent required to obtain a skeletal survey or head CT if child abuse is
Physicians or dentists may obtain x-rays of a child without the consent of the parent or guardian, but only
for the purposes of diagnosing possible child abuse or neglect or determining the extent of child abuse or
neglect (PC 11171.2).
In cases of domestic violence when there is a child in the home, is it reportable as child
While each county handles this issue differently, domestic violence is being reported in some counties as
emotional abuse (Penal Code 11166.05). When a child is in the home, medical personnel, law enforcement,
or domestic violence units generally report to Child Welfare Services. In addition, a judge can order an
emergency protective order if a child is determined to be in “immediate and present danger of abuse by a
family or household member, based on an allegation of a recent incident of abuse or threat of abuse by the
family or household member” (California Family Code Section 6250). If you encounter a situation of domestic
violence where there is concern about the safety and well-being of a child, contact your local child welfare
agency and/or law enforcement agency.
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What is the difference between children’s “normal” sex play and sexual abuse?
The lack of contemporary normative data regarding sexual activity among young children makes
differentiating between normal sex play and sexual abuse difficult. It is clear, however, that very young
children without exposure or experience do not usually have substantial or detailed knowledge about
sexual activity and that the child who exhibits developmentally inappropriate behaviors has probably
either been exposed to that behavior or has experienced it. Exposure may have occurred directly (by
observing people engaged in sexual activities) or indirectly (through media such as television or
movies). Factors to be considered in addition to developmental appropriateness include the dynamics of
the situation. Was coercion, threat, intimidation or force involved? Were age and size of the children
involved similar? Even in cases involving children of similar age and size it is possible that the activity is
abusive if threats, force, or coercion is present. Differences in emotional maturity and status must also
be evaluated. For example, a child who has been delegated the authority of “babysitter” by parents has a
distinct status or power advantage over other children, even if the age differential is not large. Many
assessment questions must be considered when professionals are presented with situations in which
children are engaging in sexual activity. It is important to understand not only the child’s knowledge
base but also the sources of that knowledge. In most cases of this type, consultation is very helpful.
When is sexual activity between minors reportable?
Guidelines for determining when a report should be made can be found in the Penal Code as well as in
case law. In the case of Planned Parenthood Affiliates v. Van de Kamp 181 Cal. App.3d 245 (1986), the
court found that if, in the judgment of the reporting professionals, there are no indications of sexual or
other abuse (see previous question), then voluntary and consensual sexual behavior between minors
under the age of 14 who are of similar age need not be reported. However, in the case of People v. John
L. 209 Cal. App. 3d 1137 (1989), the court determined that Penal Code Section 288(a) prohibits all
sexual contact with persons under the age of 14 if the offender is over age 14, regardless of the young
person’s consent. Finally, if a minor over the age of 14 engages in sexual intercourse, a report may be
required based on the age difference between the partner and minor or when there is additional
information to indicate that the sexual activity was not consensual.
See Appendix C for a chart summarizing the reporting requirements based on the age difference
between the partner and the minor. As these guidelines can be somewhat confusing, consultation with a
child abuse professional and/or your local child welfare agency is always advisable when in doubt about
whether or not to make a report.
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If I suspect abuse of a disabled child in a home or institution, is it reportable as child
Yes. Any suspected child abuse or neglect should be reported. Studies have found that children with
disabilities are more likely to be victims of maltreatment than their non-disabled peers.
What if I learn of abuse, but have been told that it has already been reported?
As a mandated reporter, you are responsible for reporting suspicions of abuse when you become aware
of them. Assuming that someone else, including another professional, has had the opportunity to
report does not satisfy your reporting requirement. Keep in mind that cumulative reports are factored
into the child protection assessment, and the information you provide may or may not have been
included in previous reports.
What happens after a report is made?
Child welfare and/or law enforcement agencies are responsible for investigating the referral once it is
made. The age of the child, seriousness of the allegations, the identity of the suspected abuser, and his
or her access to the child are some of the factors considered when determining the appropriate level of
intervention. When it appears that a child is in immediate danger, an emergency response worker will be
dispatched together with law enforcement. If it is determined that the risk to the child is not imminent,
it may take three to ten days for a child protection worker to begin their investigation. In some cases,
the referral may not be assigned for investigation, but will remain in the case file should future concerns
be reported. Those required to report should be aware that reporting does not always mean that a civil
or criminal proceeding will be initiated against the suspected abuser.
Not all reports meet the criteria for investigation by both child welfare services and law enforcement.
When the abuser is someone outside the family, the child protection agency may investigate to
determine if the child is being protected in his/her home. Once the safety of the child has been
established, appropriate referrals for services, such as counseling or medical care, may be given. Cases
of out-of-home abuse are generally closed by the welfare or probation department, while law
enforcement continues the criminal investigation. On the other hand, law enforcement may not respond
to reports in which a criminal investigation is not indicated; the family may be contacted only by local
child welfare services.
When the abuser is a family member, the focus of intervention is to ensure the safety of the child.
Removing a child from the home is an action taken only when the child cannot remain there safely. The
child protection worker's responsibility is to assess the situation and offer services and resources
designed to enable families to stay together whenever possible. Services such as referrals to counseling,
parenting classes, or substance abuse treatment, as well as assistance in obtaining medical care,
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emergency shelter, or transportation, are designed to address the problems of the family and child. If
removal becomes necessary, services are provided to facilitate reunification of the family. When a child
is removed from his or her home, several options for placement are considered (e.g., a noncustodial
parent, relatives, foster care, residential placement) based upon the specific needs of the child.
Termination of parental rights is only considered in severe cases of abuse or when the parent has failed
to complete the requirements necessary for reunification.
When there is an allegation that abuse or neglect has occurred in a licensed daycare or out-of-home
care facility, the state licensing agency, in conjunction with law enforcement and child welfare services,
conducts its own investigation of the allegations. The licensing agency may temporarily suspend or
revoke the facility’s license based on the results of its investigation. This action is independent of the
outcome of the law enforcement or child welfare services investigations or any civil action resulting
from such investigations; only a preponderance of evidence is necessary in order to take action against
a licensed care facility.
Procedures in child welfare agencies vary from county to county. Therefore, it is important to
understand the local procedures which are set in motion by a report.
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Conclusions and Resources
It is crucial that mandated reporters become familiar with reporting laws and procedures and not let
denial, fear, or ignorance interfere with providing help to families in which abuse is suspected.
Therapists are advised to familiarize themselves with social services, the legal system, and helping
agencies in their community. Frequently, coordinating therapy with other helping services will result in
enhanced treatments for the family. Training and consultation are also highly encouraged for any
professional working with child abuse. In addition to local expertise, there are many excellent written
materials, training programs, seminars and/or conferences which can be consulted when questions
regarding specific cases arise. Online materials, information, and resources are listed in Appendix D
(Statewide and National Resources) and Appendix E (Profession-Specific References/Resources). In
addition, your local Child Abuse Prevention Council or child welfare agency should be familiar with
existing local services.
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All Penal Code (PC) references are located in Article 2.5 of the PC. This article is known as the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting
Act (CANRA). The provisions of CANRA may be viewed at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html (specify ƒPenal Code≈ and search
for Sections 11164-11174.3). A mandated reporter must complete and submit the form SS 8572 even if some of the requested
information is not known. (PC Section 11167(a).)
Mandated child abuse reporters include all those individuals
and entities listed in PC Section 11165.7.
Reports of suspected child abuse or neglect shall be made by
mandated reporters to any police department or sheriff«s
department (not including a school district police or security
department), the county probation department (if designated
by the county to receive mandated reports), or the county
welfare department. (PC Section 11165.9.)
Any mandated reporter who has knowledge of or observes a
child, in his or her professional capacity or within the scope
of his or her employment, whom he or she knows or
reasonably suspects has been the victim of child abuse or
neglect shall report such suspected incident of abuse or
neglect to a designated agency immediately or as soon as
practically possible by telephone and shall prepare and send
a written report thereof within 36 hours of receiving the
information concerning the incident. (PC Section 11166(a).)
No mandated reporter who reports a suspected incident of
child abuse or neglect shall be held civilly or criminally
liable for any report required or authorized by CANRA. Any
other person reporting a known or suspected incident of child
abuse or neglect shall not incur civil or criminal liability as a
result of any report authorized by CANRA unless it can be
proven the report was false and the person knew it was false
or made the report with reckless disregard of its truth or
falsity. (PC Section 11172(a).)
SECTION A - REPORTING PARTY: Enter the mandated
reporter«s name, title, category (from PC Section 11165.7),
business/agency name and address, daytime telephone
number, and today«s date. Check yes-no whether the
mandated reporter witnessed the incident. The signature area
is for either the mandated reporter or, if the report is
telephoned in by the mandated reporter, the person taking the
telephoned report.
name and address of the designated agency notified, the date/
time of the phone call, and the name, title, and telephone
number of the official contacted.
SECTION C - VICTIM (One Report per Victim): Enter
the victim«s name, address, telephone number, birth date or
approximate age, sex, ethnicity, present location, and, where
applicable, enter the school, class (indicate the teacher«s
name or room number), and grade. List the primary
language spoken in the victim«s home. Check the appropriate
yes-no box to indicate whether the victim may have a
developmental disability or physical disability and specify
any other apparent disability. Check the appropriate yes-no
box to indicate whether the victim is in foster care, and check
the appropriate box to indicate the type of care if the victim
was in out-of-home care. Check the appropriate box to
indicate the type of abuse. List the victim«s relationship to
the suspect. Check the appropriate yes-no box to indicate
whether photos of the injuries were taken. Check the
appropriate box to indicate whether the incident resulted in
the victim«s death.
SECTION D - INVOLVED PARTIES: Enter the requested
information for: Victim«s Siblings, Victim«s Parents/
Guardians, and Suspect. Attach extra sheet(s) if needed
(provide the requested information for each individual on the
attached sheet(s)).
victims, indicate the number and submit a form for each
victim. Enter date/time and place of the incident. Provide a
narrative of the incident. Attach extra sheet(s) if needed.
Reporting Party: After completing Form SS 8572, retain
the yellow copy for your records and submit the top three
copies to the designated agency.
Designated Agency: Within 36 hours of receipt of Form
SS 8572, send white copy to police or sheriff«s department,
blue copy to county welfare or probation department, and
green copy to district attorney«s office.
1 Alaskan Native 6 Caribbean 11 Guamanian 16 Korean 22 Polynesian 27 White-Armenian
2 American Indian 7 Central American 12 Hawaiian 17 Laotian 23 Samoan 28 White-Central American
3 Asian Indian 8 Chinese 13 Hispanic 18 Mexican 24 South American 29 White-European
4 Black 9 Ethiopian 14 Hmong 19 Other Asian 25 Vietnamese 30 White-Middle Eastern
5 Cambodian 10 Filipino 15 Japanese 21 Other Pacific Islander 26 White 31 White-Romanian
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Appendix A
Page 44
( )
COUNTY WELFARE / CPS (Child Protective Services)
( )
( )
1. 3.
2. 4.
( ) ( )
( ) ( )
( )
NARRATIVE DESCRIPTION (What victim(s) said/what the mandated reporter observed/what person accompanying the victim(s) said/similar or past incidents involving the victim(s) or suspect)
DO NOT submit a copy of this form to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The investigating agency is required under Penal Code Section 11169 to submit to DOJ a
Child Abuse Investigation Report Form SS 8583 if (1) an active investigation was conducted and (2) the incident was determined not to be unfounded.
WHITE COPY-Police or Sheriff's Department; BLUE COPY-County Welfare or Probation Department; GREEN COPY- District Attorney's Office; YELLOW COPY-Reporting Party
SS 8572 (Rev. 12/02)
To Be Completed by Mandated Child Abuse Reporters
Pursuant to Penal Code Section 11166
One report per victim
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Reset Form
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Appendix B
Confidentiality Statements and Agreement (Sample)
A statement outlining confidentiality expectations between counselor and client is important in the beginning
of a therapeutic relationship. A copy should be given to the client. Here is a sample:
This is a sample of a confidentiality agreement used by counselors.
Confidentiality: All information between counselor and client is held strictly confidential unless:
1. the client authorizes release of information with a signature;
2. the counselor is ordered by a court to release information;
3. a client presents a physical danger to self or others;
4. child abuse/ neglect are suspected;
5. In these latter two cases, I am required by law to inform potential victims and legal authorities
so that protective measures can be taken.
Confidentiality Agreement
What is discussed in therapy is confidential unless and until you (client) give consent to its release, with two ex-
ceptions. I will need, and am compelled by law, to report to an appropriate other person(s) if:
1. I believe that you are in danger of hurting yourself or someone else, and
2. If there is reasonable suspicion that a child has been abused or neglected.
I (client) have read the foregoing, understand its content and agree to the conditions stipulated herein.
Client Signature: _________________________________________
Therapist signature:_______________________________________
Date: _____________________________
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Appendix C
Provider Toolkit
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Appendix D
Statewide and National Resources
Statewide Resources
Website for Online Mandated Reporter Training
Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA)
California Department of Social Services (CDSS)
Office of Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP)
California Department of Social Services
(916) 651-6960
Prevent Child Abuse California
(916) 244-1900
California Child Care Resource and Referral Network
(415) 882-0234
Regional Child Abuse Prevention Coalitions
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National Resources
ARCH National Respite Network and Research Center
(480) 922-8212
Child Welfare Information Gateway
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
National Criminal Justice Reference Service
National Parent Helpline
1-855-4A PARENT (1-855-427-2736)
Parent’s Anonymous
(909) 236-5757
Parent Discussion Groups
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Appendix E
Profession-Specific References/Resources
Child Care Professionals
California Department of Social Services Licensing
California Family Child Care Home Licensing Regulation Highlights
January 2007. Retrieved from
Fortune, Marie M.
(1985). Confidentiality and Mandatory Reporting: A Clergy Dilemma?
Retrieved from
Swagman, B.
Preventing Child Abuse: Creating a Safe Place, 4
Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive
Christian Resources.
Faith Alive Christian Resources
FaithTrust Institute
California Education Code
Counseling and Student Support Office
California Department of Education
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
U.S. Department of Education
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Law Enforcement
Guidelines for Law Enforcement Response to Domestic Violence
Published by
California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST
), Retrieved from
The National Center on Child Fatality Review
Child Death Review in California
Medical Professionals
Jenny C, Hymel KP, Ritzen A, Reinert SE, Hay TC (1999). Analysis of missed cases of abusive head trauma.
Journal of the American Medical Association
282(7), 621-626. Retrieved from
Reece, R. and Christian, C. Ed. (2008). Child Abuse Medical Diagnosis and Management, 3rd edition. Elk
Grove Village, Illinois: American Academy of Pediatrics.
Mental Health Professionals
Briere, J. N. (1992). Child abuse trauma : Theory and Treatment of the Lasting Effects. Newbury Park, CA:
SAGE Publications.
Conte, J.R. Ed. (2001). Critical Issues in Child Sexual Abuse. Historical, Legal, and Psychological Perspectives.
Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Graham-Bermann, S.A. and Levendosky, A.A. (2011). How Intimate Partner Violence Affects Children:
Developmental Research, Case Studies, and Evidence-Based Intervention. Washington, DC: American
Psychological Association.
Hunter, Mic. (1991). Abused Boys: The Neglected Victims of Sexual Abuse. New York: Ballantine Books.
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