The Reporting Law: an Overview
The suspicion of child abuse indicates the normal system for his or her protection–the family–may have broken down. The law protects a reporter of suspected child abuse from liability in order to overcome the isolate of a child being abused at home.
The following is quoted from California Penal Code 11166:
“The law mandates that those who ‘have knowledge of, or observe a child in her or her professional capacity or within the scope of his or her employment who he or she knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of child abuse to report…’
‘Reasonable suspicion’ means that it is objectively reasonable for a person to entertain a suspicion, based upon fact that could cause a reasonable person in a like position, drawing, when appropriate, on his or her training and experience, to suspect child abuse.
The report must be made ‘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.’
The report “shall include the name of the person making the report, the name of the child, the present location of the child, the nature and extent of the injury, and any other information, including information that led that person to suspect child abuse” (PC11167).
Failing to report suspected child abuse is against the law because this omission potentially places the child at further risk. “Any person who fails to report an instance of child abuse…is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by… a [6 month] jail term, by a fine of…$1000… or both…”(PC11172).
Section 11166 of the Penal Code requires any childcare custodian, medical practitioner, and non-medical practitioner, or employee of a child protective agency 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 a child abuse to report the known or suspected instance of child abuse to a child protective agency immediately or as soon as practically possible by telephone and to prepare and send a written report thereof within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident.
“Child care custodian” includes teachers, administrative officers, supervisors of child welfare and attendance, or certificated pupil personnel employees of any public or private school; administrators of community care facilities licensed to care for children; headstart teachers; licensing workers or licensing evaluators; but not limited to, foster parents, group home personnel, and personnel of residential care facilities; and social workers or probation officers.
“Medical practitioner” includes physicians and surgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists, dentists, residents, interns, podiatrists, chiropractors, licensed nurses, dental hygienists, or any other person who is licensed under Division 2 (commencing with Section 500) of the Business and Professions Code.
“Non-medical Practitioner” includes state or county public health employees who treat minors for venereal disease or any other condition; coroners; paramedics; marriage, family or child counselors; and religious practitioners who diagnose, examine, or treat children.
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