Alameda County Child Abuse Prevention Council

Mandated Reporting Guide

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Alameda County Child Abuse Prevention Council

Marcy Takeuchi






Penal code 11164-11174


All fifty states have passed some form of legislation regarding mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect in response to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, federal legislation which originally passed in 1974. California has the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), which is part of the Penal Code. This act defines what is meant by the terms “abuse” and “neglect,” and it requires certain categories of people who routinely work with children to report their suspicion that abuse has occurred. (The term "abuse" is at times used to encompass all types of child abuse and neglect.)


CANRA designates the agencies that must receive and investigate reports of child abuse and neglect, generally social services and law enforcement agencies. State and local agencies are required to cross-report and set up mechanisms for sharing information. CANRA also states, “In any investigation of suspected child abuse, all persons participating in the investigation of the case shall consider the needs of the child victim and shall do whatever is necessary to prevent psychological harm to the child victim."(Penal Code 11164.b)


The California Department of Justice maintains a statewide index called the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI), which contains information from all reports of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and severe neglect investigations in which the allegations were not determined to be unfounded.


Mandated Reporters

Professionals who work with or regularly come into contact with children have a crucial role in their protection. Mandated reporters are designated as such because they are in a position to receive information that a child is or may be at risk, and to pass this information on to the agencies that can intervene to protect the child. People who must make a Suspected Child Abuse Report include any child care custodian, health practitioner, employee of a child protective agency, child visitation monitor, firefighter, animal control officer, humane society officer, commercial film and photographic print processor, or clergy member, "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."


CANRA describes the process of submitting a report and sets penalties for mandated reporters who fail to report.  It also protects the confidentiality of the information in the report and protects mandated reporters from civil and criminal liability.  In addition, CANRA states that reporting duties are "individual, and no supervisor or administrator may impede or inhibit the reporting duties, and no person making a report shall be subject to any sanction for making the report."  Agencies and schools may establish internal procedures to facilitate reporting and apprise supervisors and administrators of reports, but cannot require any employee mandated to make reports to disclose his or her identity to the employer.


Because the duty to report is individual, reporting the information regarding a case of possible child abuse or neglect to an employer, supervisor, school principal, school counselor, co-worker, or other person is not a substitute for making a mandated report to an appropriate agency.  However, if two or more persons have knowledge and agree, a single report may be made.


Mandatory reporting is based on our societal duty to protect children and the recognition that without these guidelines and regulations, far fewer children and families would be given the intervention services needed.  Protecting the identified child may also provide the opportunity to protect other children in the home.  It is equally important to provide help for the parents, who may be unable to ask for help directly.   The report of abuse may be a catalyst for bringing about change in the home environment, which may in turn lower the risk of abuse in the home.


Non-Mandated Reporters

A non-mandated reporter is any person who has knowledge of, observes, or reasonably suspects abuse and reports it without being obligated to do so.  Non-mandated reporters may report anonymously, and there is no penalty for not reporting.  When you have a suspicion of abuse or neglect of a child, but you are not within your professional capacity as a mandated reporter - for instance, you witness an incident in your neighborhood - you are a non-mandated reporter.  Non-mandated reports constitute a significant number of the reports received by child protection and law enforcement agencies.  


The identity of all reporters, mandated or non-mandated, is confidential information and may only be revealed according to the standards set forth in CANRA.


Reasonable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is the standard mandated reporters must use in deciding whether they should make a report to a child protection agency.  According to CANRA, "reasonable suspicion" means that it is objectively reasonable for a person in a similar position, drawing on the facts of the case and his/her training and experience, to suspect child abuse or neglect.  It does not mean the mandated reporter is responsible for confirming his or her suspicions before making a report, only that someone else in his or her position could draw the same conclusion based on the information available.










A child abuse report from a mandated reporter has two components.  First, you must make a report immediately or as soon as practically possible by telephone.  Then, within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident, you must prepare and send a written report on the Suspected Child Abuse Report Form (PC11166) to the agency to which you made the report.  (These forms may be requested from Children and Family Services by calling (510) 670-9794, and it is advisable to keep several blank ones on file so they are available when needed.)

To make a report, you may call either the 24-hour child abuse reporting hotline for Alameda County at (510) 259-1800 or the local law enforcement agency having jurisdiction.  Incidents or issues involving a non-relative perpetrator, when there is no suspicion of parental non-protection, are typically investigated by the police and may be directly reported to the law enforcement jurisdiction where the crime took place.  

The following information is recorded on the Suspected Child Abuse Report Form: the name, business address, and telephone number of the mandated reporter, and the capacity that makes the person a mandated reporter; the child's name and address, present location, and, where applicable, school, grade, and class; the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of the child's parents or guardians; the information that gave rise to the reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect and the source or sources of that information; and the name, address, telephone number, and other relevant personal information about the person or persons who might have abused or neglected the child.  The mandated reporter must make a report even if some of this information is not known or is uncertain to him or her.


A common error is to send in the form without calling in the report, or to wait until the form is filled out and approved by a principal or supervisor before making the call.  This inadvertently places the mandated reporter in violation.  It also may impede the ability of an investigator to interview a child in a timely manner or document injuries that substantiate the allegations. 



In Alameda County, when a reporter calls the Emergency Response hotline the information is taken by a Child Welfare Worker in the Screening Unit, who prepares a face sheet, narrative, and any history of previous referrals or CPS involvement available on the family or child.  A supervisor reviews the information and makes the determination of whether an in-person investigation is required.  When the information given does not meet the criteria for child abuse or neglect at the present time, the report is "screened out," and there is no in-person investigation.  In this case, the information in the report is kept on file and is accessible to other county child welfare and law enforcement agencies.


If an in-person investigation is determined to be necessary, a response time will be determined, and the investigation will be assigned to an Emergency Response field worker.  The two response times are "immediate" or "within 10 days," depending on the immediacy of the risk presented by the information in the report.  As a mandated reporter, you are entitled to know whether or not the referral has been assigned for investigation, and you may call back to request this information.


Meanwhile, agencies are responsible for cross-reporting to each other information received about suspected child abuse.  Emergency Response Workers and law enforcement will often work together, although their investigations will be separate.  When abuse has occurred within a family, the Child Welfare Worker's emphasis is to ensure the safety of the child and provide services to keep the family together.


In attempting to ascertain the level of risk, the Emergency Response Worker will usually first attempt to talk with the child named in the referral about the concerns, then with other children in the family, and then parents or caregivers.  Interviews with children are done in the school environment whenever possible. 


Children are removed from the home when they cannot remain there safely.  With reasonable cause, a peace officer may take a child into temporary custody without a warrant while a situation is being investigated.  Children are usually taken to an emergency foster home initially, but are placed with a suitable relative whenever possible.  When a child comes into custody, the case is transferred to Dependency Investigations, and a new worker is assigned to continue the investigation and file reports with the court.


At the conclusion of the investigation, a disposition is assigned to the report. 

®"Unfounded report" means a report which is determined by the investigator to be false, to be inherently improbable, to involve an accidental injury, or not to constitute child abuse or neglect, as defined in Section 11165.6.

®"Substantiated report" means a report which is determined by the investigator, based upon some credible evidence, to constitute child abuse or neglect, as defined in Section 11165.6.

®"Inconclusive report" means a report which is determined by the investigator who conducted the investigation not to be unfounded, but in which the findings are inconclusive and there is insufficient evidence to determine whether child abuse or neglect, as defined in Section 11165.6, has occurred.


After the final disposition, the agency will inform a mandated reporter by mail of the results of the investigation and any action the agency is taking with regard to the child or family. 








Knowledge or reasonable suspicion of the following MUST be reported to a child protection agency, no matter where they occur.  


Child Neglect is the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for the child's welfare under circumstances indicating harm or threatened harm to the child's health or welfare.  The term includes both acts and omissions on the part of the responsible person.


  1. "Severe neglect" means the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to protect the child from severe malnutrition or medically diagnosed nonorganic failure to thrive. Also those situations 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, including the intentional failure to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter or medical care.


2.   "General neglect" means the negligent failure of a person having the care or custody of a child to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision where no physical injury to the child has occurred.



Child Abuse is a broad term which includes the following: physical injury which is inflicted by other than accidental means on a child by another person; sexual abuse; willful cruelty or unjustifiable punishment of a child; and unlawful corporal punishment or injury.  It also includes neglect of a child or abuse in out of home care. 


There are three types of non-accidental injuries that do not need to be reported: physical injuries incurred during “mutual affrays between minors”; those caused by reasonable and necessary use of force by a public school employee to stop a disturbance threatening injury or property damage, for self-defense, or to obtain dangerous objects in a pupil's possession; and those caused by reasonable and necessary force by peace officer acting in the scope of his or her employment.


Unlawful Corporal Punishment or Injury, also called physical abuse, is the willful infliction of cruel or inhuman corporal punishment or injury resulting in a traumatic physical condition.  Corporal punishment, or physical discipline, is not in and of itself child abuse, and a non-injurious spanking to the buttocks is not prohibited by law.  However, when parents or caretakers use corporal punishment with sufficient force to cause internal or external injuries, this is child abuse.  When parents who are out of control use corporal punishment, or when instruments (including closed fists, belts, spoons, and cords) are used to hit children, the chances of causing injury are greatly increased.

Willful Cruelty or Unjustifiable Punishment of a Childis when any person willfully causes or permits any child to suffer or inflicts unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering, or if the person having the care or custody of any child willfully causes or permits the child or their health to be placed in an endangering situation.


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 this.  However, these reports are not mandated.


Sexual Abuse includes sexual assault or sexual exploitation.

Conduct described as "sexual assault" can include, but is not limited to, the following:

Any penetration, however slight, of the vagina or anal opening of one person by the penis of another person, whether or not there is the emission of semen; any sexual contact between the genitals or anal opening of one person and the mouth or tongue of another person, any intrusion by one person into the genitals or anal opening of another person, including the use of any object for this purpose, except when performed for a valid medical purpose; the intentional touching of the genitals or intimate parts (including the breasts, genital area, groin, inner thighs and buttocks) or the clothing covering them, of a child, for purposes of sexual arousal or gratification, except acts which may reasonably be construed to be normal caretaker responsibilities; and the intentional masturbation of the perpetrator's genitals in the presence of a child.


In addition, as of January 1, 1998, AB 327 amended the California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act to add the following to the class of sexual assault crimes that require mandatory reporting: 

~ Unlawful sexual intercourse (statutory rape) with a child under the age of 16 years when the perpetrator is over the age of 21 years.

~ Lewd and lascivious acts with children ages 14 or 15 by a perpetrator who is more than 10 years older than the victim.


The bill's authors presented the following rationales for these changes:

1.                  Research reveals that many teenage girls are being sexually exploited and impregnated by adult men. Two thirds of births to teenage girls nationwide are fathered by men age 20 and older.

2.                  In California, men age 20 or older are responsible for five times more births among juniors high girls than boys in their peer group.  Alameda County is one of the counties with the highest incidence of infants born to minor mothers being fathered by adult men.


"Sexual exploitation" can include, but is not limited to, prostitution of a child and depicting a minor engaged in obscene acts for purposes of preparing a film, photograph, negative, slide, drawing, painting, or other pictorial depiction. 




1.     The term child refers to any person under the age of 18.


2.     Privileged communication (physician-patient, therapist-client) DOES NOT APPLY.  The statutory duty to report supersedes confidentiality when there is reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect. There is no civil or criminal liability for reporting if you are a mandated reporter. If you are a non-mandated reporter, there is no liability unless it is proven that the report was false.


3.     Failure to report by telephone or as soon as practically possible and in writing within 36 hours is a misdemeanor punishable by confinement in a county jail for a term not to exceed six months, by a fine of not more than $1000.00, or by both. There is also the possibility of civil liability for failure to report.


4.     Representatives of child protection agencies may interview suspected victims of child abuse on school premises. The child may be interviewed in private or select an adult to lend support. However, the member of the staff so elected shall not participate in the interview or discuss the facts or circumstances of the case with the child and is subject to the confidentiality requirements of CANRA.


5.     Skeletal x-rays for diagnosis and photographs of injuries may be taken without parental permission.


6.     If two or more mandated reporters jointly become aware of a known or suspected instance of child abuse, they may, by mutual agreement, designate one of themselves to make the required telephone and written reports.  However if a mandated reporter becomes aware that the designated individual failed to report, he or she must then report.


7.     Pregnancy of a minor is not considered in and of itself to constitute the basis of a reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse.


8.     Maternal substance abuse and positive toxicology screening at the time an infant is delivered is not in and of itself a sufficient basis for reporting child abuse or neglect.  However, any indication of maternal substance abuse should lead to an assessment by the health care provider of other factors present that indicate a risk to the child.


9.     A child receiving treatment by spiritual means as provided in section 16509.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code or not receiving specified medical treatment for religious reasons, shall not for the 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.

Child Abuse Reporting:

Frequently Asked Questions

Adapted from "The California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Law: Issues and Answers for Mandated Reporters" Pub 132 (1/00) California Department of Social Services, Office of Child Abuse Prevention, p. 17-20.


  1. Who am I to say what is abusive?
    Professionals often feel reluctant to label behavior as abusive. They may feel they have no right to pass judgment on other people. However, if a reasonable suspicion exists, the protection of the child and compliance with the law must take precedence over these concerns. This protective action is beneficial to the parents as well, who may not recognize their behavior as abusive, or may be reluctant to seek help.


  1. What is the fine line between abuse and discipline?
    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.  Some parents hit their children in places where injuries are not visible (the buttocks, the thighs, the back) and yet may tell the mandated reporter  that they use belts, whips or other potentially dangerous instruments.  If a mandated reporter has reasonable suspicion of abuse, even with no visible signs, you are required to report.  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.

  1. What if abuse occurred in the past?
    There is no time limitation regarding the reporting of child abuse.  If a victim is still under age 18, the abuse must be reported.


  1. What if an adult states he or she was abused as a child?
    The child abuse reporting law mandates a report when there is a reasonable suspicion or knowledge that minors may be in need of protection.  Therefore, childhood abuse of adults should be reported if there is a reasonable suspicion that there may be another child victim.


  1. At what age is a child most at risk of abuse?
    All children are at risk of abuse, but infants and toddlers are most likely to sustain serious injuries due to their fragility. The mortality rate is highest for children 0-2.  Some people are predisposed to incorrect ideas about abuse, depending on the age of the child.  For example, sexual abuse of infants is more difficult to fathom than sexual abuse of an older child, yet it does occur.  Adolescents are also at risk of abuse but may not receive needed help because they may be thought to provoke the abuse or to be better able to protect themselves or run away from abusive situations.  Despite their age and size, adolescents are often just as vulnerable as younger children to physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect.


  1. At what age can children legally be left alone?
    There is no law which states the age when children can be left alone, nor is there any law which specifies a minimum age for a caretaker.  Good judgment on the part of the parents is expected. The ages, number of children, their maturity, the
    length of time in question, cultural factors and other characteristics would be considered.


  1. Are clergy mandated to report?
    Yes. Clergy are legally mandated reporters, and are exempt only if the knowledge or reasonable suspicion of child abuse was obtained during a "penitential communication," e.g. sacramental confession.


  1. Is a mandated reporter "on duty" 24 hours a day and required to make reports on family, neighbors or friends?
    In California the mandated reporting law specifically states that reporting is required when the reporter has knowledge of or observes child abuse in his or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment. A report is not required when information is obtained through a personal relationship. However, professionals with any knowledge of child abuse or neglect should examine their moral and ethical responsibilities to their community and its children when making such a decision.


9.May reports be made anonymously?
Mandated reporters must identify themselves when making child abuse reports.  Persons not legally required to report may make anonymous reports.


10.Should I inform the family that I have made a child abuse report?

There is no law or regulation regarding this, and good professional judgment should be used. If a child is in imminent danger and the perpetrator has access to the child, it is better not to advise anyone in the family so that the child is not coerced or instructed to retract the disclosure.






Alameda County Child Abuse Prevention Council







This is a guide for mandated reporters and the information contained in this document is designed to assist those mandated by California Child Abuse Reporting Laws to determine their reporting responsibilities. It is not intended to be and should not be considered legal advice. In the event there are questions regarding reporting responsibilities in a specific case, the advice of legal counsel should be sought. This guide incorporates changes in the Child Abuse Reporting Law, effective January, 1998. For more detailed information refer to Penal code Section 11164 & 11165.1


I.                   INVOLUNTARY SEXUAL ACITIVITY is always reportable.


II.                 INCEST, even if voluntary is always reportable. Incest is a marriage or act of intercourse between parents and children; ancestors and descendants of every degree; brothers and sisters of half and whole blood and uncles and nieces or aunts and nephews. (Family code, 2000.)


III.              VOLUNTARY SEXUAL ACTIVITY may or may not be reportable. Even if the behavior is voluntary, there are circumstances where the behavior is abusive, either by Penal code definition or because of an exploitive relationship and this behavior must be reported. Review either section A, B or C and section D. In addition, if there is reasonable suspicion of sexual abuse prior to the consensual activity, the abuse must be reported.





“Child” refers to the person that the mandated child abuse reporter is involved with.

Definitions and Comments

Mandatory Report

Not Mandatory Report

A. Child younger than 14 years old

1.Partner is younger than 14 years old, but there is disparity in chronological or maturational age or indication


See, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California v. John K. Van De Kamp

(1986) 181 Cal. App. 3d 245 (1986)



2.Partner is younger than 14 years old, but there is disparity in chronological or maturational age or indications of intimidation, coercion or bribery or other indications of exploitive relationship.




3. Partner is 14 years or older.




4. The perpetrator has the intent of “Arousing, appealing to or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of the perpetrator or the child.”




5. Partner is alleged spouse and over 14 years of age.

The appropriate authority will determine the legality of the marriage.




B. Child 14 or 15 years old

1.Partner is less than 14




 2. Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a partner older than 14 and less than 21 years of age & there is no indication of abuse or evidence of an exploitive relationship.




3. Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a partner older than 21 years of age.




4. Lewd & Lascivious

The perpetrator has the intent of “Arousing, appealing to or gratifying the lust, passions, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of the perpetrator or the child.”



5. Partner is alleged spouse and over 21 years of age.

The appropriate authority will determine the legality of the marriage.



C. Child 16 or 17 years old

1. Partner is less than 14




2. Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a partner older than 14 & there is no indication of an exploitive relationship.




3. Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a partner older than 14 & there is evidence of an exploitive relationship.




4. Partner is alleged spouse and there is evidence of an exploitive relationship.

The appropriate authority will determine the legality of the marriage.



D. Child under the age of 18

1. Sodomy, oral copulation, penetration of a genital or anal opening by a foreign object, even if consensual, with a partner of any age.





Mandated reports of sexual activity must be reported to either The Department of Family & Children's Services (DFCS) or to the appropriate police jurisdiction. This information will then be cross-reported to the together agency. Reporting does not necessarily mean that a civil or criminal proceeding will be initiated against the suspected abuser.


Failure to report known or reasonable suspicion of child abuse, including sexual abuse, is a misdemeanor. Mandated reporters are provided immunity from civil or criminal liability as a result of making a mandated report of child abuse.


Alameda County Child Abuse Prevention Council

Adapted from Orange County Reporting Guidelines











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