This policy identifies those who are required to report under the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) as well as the Immunities and Liabilities for mandated reporters, and the responsibilities of DCFS employees reporting or receiving reports of child abuse and neglect.
Table of Contents
- Mandated Reporters
- Commercial Sexual Exploitation
- Labor Trafficking
- Substance Abuse
- A DCFS Employee Observes or Suspects Child Abuse
- Prior to Concluding the Reporting Telephone Call
- Responding to Inquiries on an Open Referral/Case
This policy guide was updated from the 10/24/19 version to incorporate new procedural requirements related to WIC 329 and WIC 331.
A mandated reporter is a person who is required to report known or suspected instances of child abuse and/or neglect if they, in their professional capacity or within the scope of their employment, observe a child who appears to be a victim of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.
Although the CPH receives the majority of its referrals from agencies and persons outside of DCFS, any employee of DCFS who, within the scope of his/her employment, observes, or has Reasonable Suspicion, or receives a report of abuse, neglect, caregiver absence/incapacity or exploitation from a source other than the CPH, must immediately contact the CPH to make a referral. This also applies to a case that is currently open to that CSW.
Commercial Sexual Exploitation
Commercial Sexual Exploitation is a form of child abuse that must be reported to the Child Protection Hotline.
Federal law describes Commercial Sexual Exploitation/Sex Trafficking as "the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a sexual act."
"Severe forms of trafficking in persons" is defined as "sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age."
This means that any child under the age of 18 who is induced to perform a commercial sexual act is considered a sex trafficking victim regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion is present.
WIC 300(b)(2) describes CSEC as a child who is sexually trafficked or who receives food or shelter in exchange for, or who is paid to perform, sexual acts and whose parent or guardian failed to, or was unable to, protect the child, is within the description of this subdivision. These children are known as commercially sexually exploited children.
The commercial aspect of the sexual exploitation is critical to separating the crime of trafficking from sexual assault, molestation, or rape. The term 'commercial sex act' is defined by the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act as the giving or receiving of anything of value (money, drugs, shelter, food, clothes, etc.) to any person in exchange for a sex act.
Youth will often disclose incidents of physical and sexual assault that occurred during the runaway episodes. Occasionally, they will disclose pertinent information about their exploiters. All suspected incidents of abuse or neglect, including sexual assault, physical abuse, kidnapping, and suspicion that a youth has experienced a new incident of exploitation must be reported to law enforcement and child welfare agencies investigating authorities. Remember to contact the CPH in a timely manner to generate a referral, even if the child has an open child welfare case. A new SCAR must be submitted to law enforcement for each suspected crime.
Any minor who is engaged in commercial sexual activity, whether as a suspected victim, recruiter, or exploiter, must be reported as a victim of child abuse.
Examples of Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE):
- Street exploitation
- Exchange sexual acts in home or hotel settings
- Arranging the exchange of sexual acts on the internet/social media
- Production of nude or sexually explicit images or video content
- Exchanging sexual acts for goods or services (housing/food/protection)
- Advertising a minor for sexual purposes
- Encouraging/coercing/threatening a person to exchange sexual acts
Exchanging sexual acts to meet a basic need is sometimes referred to as "survivor sex."
SB 794 (2016) mandates that youth who return from a runaway episode should be assessed for CSE. If there is a reasonable suspicion that CSE occurred during the runaway episode, call the CPH to report child abuse. Every new incident of CSE must be reported to the CPH.
Labor trafficking is also a form of child abuse that must be reported to the CPH. Labor trafficking is the use of "force, fraud, or coercion" leading a child or youth to perform a labor or provide a service. Force involves physically restraining or harming a victim. Fraud deceives victims about aspects of their employments including job duties, work conditions, and payment. Coercion includes threats of serious psychological/physical harm to the victims or their loved ones, or real or threatened abuse of the legal system. Children and youth may experience labor and sex trafficking simultaneously. Common industries of concern include agriculture, domestic work, health and beauty, restaurants, small businesses, gang-involved drug sales/gun carrying, traveling sales crew, and peddling/begging rings.
In instances where the parent’s inability to provide the child(ren) with adequate care and supervision is solely based on substance abuse, a report must be made to a county welfare or probation department and not to law enforcement.
- Internal procedures to facilitate reporting and apprise supervisors and administrators of reports may be established, consistent with .
- No supervisor or administrator may impede or inhibit the employee’s reporting duties, nor may any person be punished or subject to any sanction for making a report.
- No employee is required to disclose to their employer that they have made a child abuse and neglect report.
- No agency or person may disclose the identity of any person making a report to that person’s employer, except with the employee’s consent or by court order.
- The identity of any person making a report is confidential and can only be disclosed among agencies receiving or investigating mandated reports or to the district attorney in a criminal prosecution.
- No agency or person may disclose the identity of any person making a report, except with the employee’s consent or by court order.
Protection from Liability
- No mandated reporter who reports a known or suspected instance of child abuse or neglect will be civilly or criminally liable for any report required or authorized under CANRA. This immunity applies even if the mandated reporter acquired the knowledge or Reasonable Suspicion of child abuse or neglect outside of his or her professional capacity or outside the scope of his or her employment.
- Any person providing access to the victim of a known or suspected instance of child abuse or neglect at the request of a government agency investigating such a report will not incur civil or criminal liability as a result of providing access to that agency.
- Mandatory reporters or those acting under their direction will not incur any civil or criminal liability for taking photographs, or causing photographs to be taken, of a suspected victim of child abuse or neglect or for disseminating the photographs with the required reporting.
- Should action be brought against any person making a required or authorized report, despite the immunities described above, they will not be unfairly burdened by legal fees incurred in defending those actions.
Failure to Report
A mandated reporter who fails to report an incident of known or reasonably suspected child abuse or neglect is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to imprisonment or fine.
Violation of Confidentiality
Reports of child abuse and neglect are confidential and may be disclosed only under specific circumstances. Violation of this confidentiality is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment or fine.
When a state makes a request to an out-of-state agency to check child abuse registries for foster or adoptive placements, the request must cite the safeguards in place to prevent unauthorized disclosure of information by the requesting state.
Feedback to Reporters
The reporting party must be informed about the disposition of their report. The DCFS 196, Notice of Referral Closure/Disposition may be used for this purpose.
Whenever the DCFS 196 is sent to a mandated reporter upon the closure of an Emergency Response (ER) investigation, the Addendum to Emergency Response Notice of Referral Disposition (Addendum) handout must also be provided, along with the JV-210, Application to Commence Proceedings by Affidavit and Decision by Social Worker and JV-212, Application to Review Decision by Social Worker Not to Commence Proceedings forms. (The Addendum, JV-210, and JV-212 can be generated together in CWS/CMS by selecting “Addendum ER Referral Dispo bundle” from the L.A. County templates). The Addendum to Emergency Response Notice of Referral Disposition handout provides instructions to reporting parties on how to submit a JV-210 form pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) 329 and a JV-212 form pursuant to WIC 331.
A DCFS Employee Observes or Suspects Child Abuse
All requests for child protective services on new or existing cases must be directed to the Child Protection Hotline (CPH) for initial assessment. Requests may be made by telephone or in-person.
DCFS Employee Responsibilities
- If a DCFS employee observes, suspects, or receives a report of abuse, neglect, caregiver absence/incapacity, or exploitation from a source other than the CPH, that employee must immediately contact the CPH to make a referral for initial assessment.
- If an investigation on a referral regarding children in Out-of-Home care reveals that the caregiver’s biological/adopted children are victims of abuse or at risk of abuse, contact the CPH immediately to make a referral.
Prior to Concluding the Reporting Telephone Call
CPH CSW Responsibilities
- Assign an appropriate response time for the referral. Inform the caller of the anticipated response time. If the response time is unknown, proceed to step 2.
- If the caller is a mandated reporter, inform them of the response time. If the caller is not a mandated reporter, it is not necessary to contact them to give information regarding the response time.
- Provide the mandated reporter with the referral number, telephone number and name of the office that will provide the in-person response.
- Direct the mandated reporter to record the referral number on the Suspected Child Abuse Report (SCAR) form SS8572 that they will forward to the Child Protection Hotline.
- Inform the mandated reporter that the SCAR SS 8572 can also be submitted electronically on the DCFS website by way of the Suspected Child Abuse Reporting System for Mandated Reporters. https://mandreptla.org/
- If the caller is not a mandated reporter do not provide the referral number. Provide only the telephone number and name of the office that will provide the in-person response.
Responding to Inquiries on an Open Referral/Case
CPH CSW Responsibilities
- Ask the caller if he or she has allegations that they would like to report.
- If yes, then generate a referral.
- If no, and the inquiry is on an open referral and/or case, search the CWS/CMS database to locate the client.
- Use the client’s abstract to determine the identity and location of the case-carrying/ER CSW.
- Ask the caller for their contact information.
- Refer the caller to the case-carrying/ER CSW
- Complete an Information/Consultation Call Form with the details of the inquiry
- Map the form to the case-carrying/ER CSW
- Attach the completed form to the referral and/or case record.
- Forward the CSW Information/Consultation Call Form to the SCSW for final review and approval.
- The approving SCSW will forward the Information to CSW Information/Consultation Call Form to the clerical support staff for processing.
- If the client does not have any open services with DCFS, inform the caller and generate a Consultation form.
- If the client does not have any open services with Los Angeles County, but does with another county, inform the caller and provide them with the contact number for that agency and generate a Consultation form.
- CSW Information/Consultation Call Form
Addendum ER Referral Dispo bundle (L.A. County template)
SS 8572, Suspected Child Abuse Report (SCAR)
JV-210, Application to Commence Proceedings by Affidavit and Decision by Social Worker
Referenced Policy Guides
0050-502.10 - Child Protection Hotline, Child Protection Hotline (CPH)
0070-521.10, Assessment of Drug & Alcohol Abuse
0070-535.10, Assessment of Exploitation
0100-570.11, Missing or Absent from Care Children/Nonminor Dependents
0500-501.20, Release of Confidential DCFS Case Records Information
Penal Code Section 11165.1 – Provides definitions of sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, and commercial sexual exploitation.
Penal Code Section 11165.7 – Provides definition of mandated reporter, as well as training requirements and suggestions for employers of mandated reporters and other staff and volunteers whose duties require direct contact with and supervision of children and who are encouraged to report known or suspected instances of child abuse or neglect.
Penal Code Section 11166 – Describes the reporting duties and responsibilities of a mandated reporter, requirements of reporter’s employer, supervisor, or administrator, definition of “reasonable suspicion,” and immunities and liabilities, including punishment for violations.
Penal Code Section 11166.05 – Describes reporting duties when mandated reporter has knowledge or reasonable suspicion that child is suffering, or is at substantial risk of suffering, serious emotional damage.
Penal Code Section 11172 – Describes immunities for mandated reporters.
Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) 300(b)(2) – Describes child sexual exploitation as a child who is sexually trafficked, or who received food or shelter in exchange for, or who is paid to perform sexual acts described in Section 236.1 or 11165.1 of the Penal Code, or whose parent or guardian failed to, or was unable to, protect the child, is within the description of this subdivision, and that this finding is declaratory of existing law. These children shall be known as commercially sexually exploited children.
WIC 329 – States, in part, that whenever any person applies to the social worker to commence proceedings in the juvenile court, the application shall be in the form of an affidavit alleging that there was or is within the county, or residing therein, a child within the provisions of Section 300. The social worker shall immediately investigate as they deem necessary to determine whether proceedings in the juvenile court should be commenced.
WIC 331 – States, in part, that when any person has applied to the social worker, pursuant to Section 329, to commence juvenile court proceedings and the social worker fails to file a petition within three (3) weeks after the application, the person may, within one (1) month after making the application, apply to the juvenile court to review the decision of the social worker.