BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     SB 478


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          Date of Hearing:  July 14, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES


                                  Kansen Chu, Chair


          SB  
          478 (Huff) - As Amended July 9, 2015


          SENATE VOTE:  40-0


          SUBJECT:  Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act:  mandated  
          reporters:  pilot program.


          SUMMARY:  Establishes a five-year pilot program to allow for  
          internet reporting of child abuse and neglect by specified  
          mandated reporters.


          Specifically, this bill:


          1)Authorizes specified county welfare agencies to develop a  
            pilot program for Internet-based reporting of child abuse and  
            neglect.  Additionally, allows the pilot program to receive  
            reports of suspected child abuse and neglect and requires the  
            program to meet the following conditions:



             a)   The suspected child abuse or neglect reported through  
               the Internet-based system does not indicate that the child  
               is subject to immediate risk, as specified, or imminent  








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               danger of severe harm or death;

             b)   The Internet form contains standard safety assessment  
               qualifying questions that allow the agency to obtain  
               necessary information required to assess the need for child  
               welfare services and a response, and to determine whether  
               the mandated reporter should be redirected to make a report  
               by telephone, as specified;



             c)   The form requires a mandated reporter to complete all  
               required fields, including his or her identity and contact  
               information, in order to submit the report;


             d)   The agency provides an Internet-based reporting system  
               that has appropriate security protocols to preserve the  
               confidentiality of the reports and any documents or  
               photographs submitted through the system; and 


             e)   Use of the system is limited to the following mandated  
               reporters:  a peace officer, as specified; a probation  
               officer or social worker, as specified; a school teacher,  
               counselor, or administrator; a physician and surgeon,  
               psychologist, licensed nurse, or clinical social worker, as  
               specified; or a coroner.



          2)Authorizes one of the aforementioned mandated reporters, in a  
            county where the pilot program is active, to use the  
            Internet-based reporting tool in lieu of the initial telephone  
            report required under current law.  Requires a mandated  
            reporter using the Internet-based system to, as soon as  
            practically possible, cooperate with the agency on any  
            requests for additional information if needed to investigate  
            the report, subject to applicable confidentiality  








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            requirements. 

          3)Eliminates the requirement to submit a written follow-up  
            report, as specified, for an authorized mandated reporter who  
            uses the Internet-based reporting system in lieu of a  
            telephone report for an initial report of child abuse or  
            neglect.



          4)Authorizes the pilot program to operate in up to 10 counties  
            and requires the Department of Social Services (DSS) to  
            consult the County Welfare Directors Association of California  
            and any interested county welfare agencies to determine which  
            counties may be involved in the pilot program.



          5)Requires DSS to oversee and administer the pilot program  
            through the issuance of written directives, as specified, and  
            requires a county that chooses to participate in the pilot  
            program to hire an evaluator to monitor the implementation of  
            the program in accordance with the DSS directives.



          6)Authorizes DSS to conclude the pilot program on a  
            county-by-county basis prior to the end of the pilot if the  
            evaluation and monitoring indicate the pilot program is  
            compromising the safety of children.



          7)Establishes a January 1, 2021 sunset date for the pilot  
            program and other provisions of this bill. 



          8)Provides that nothing included in the pilot program shall be  








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            construed as changing current statutory or regulatory  
            requirements regarding timely review, assessments, and  
            response to reports of possible abuse or neglect.



          EXISTING LAW:   



          1)Establishes the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA),  
            for the general purpose of protecting children from abuse and  
            neglect.  (PC 11164 et seq.)

          2)Enumerates 44 categories of mandated reporters of child abuse,  
            including teachers, clergy members, peace officers, animal  
            control officers, therapists, and other individuals whose  
            professions may or may not include routine interactions with  
            children.  (PC 11165.7)


          3)Requires mandated reporters to report suspected child abuse or  
            neglect to any police department or sheriff's department,  
            county probation department, as specified, or the county  
            welfare department and specifies procedures for the agencies  
            receiving the reports to ensure it is transmitted to the  
            proper jurisdiction, when the agency lacks jurisdiction.   
            Prohibits agencies that are required to receive reports of  
            suspected child abuse or neglect from refusing to accept a  
            report from a mandated reporter or other person, as specified,  
            and requires the receiving agency to maintain a record of all  
            reports received.  (PC 11165.9)


          4)Requires a mandated reporter, as defined, to make a report to  
            one of the aforementioned agencies 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 he or she knows or reasonably suspects has been the  








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            victim of child abuse or neglect.  Requires a mandated  
            reporter to make an initial report by telephone immediately or  
            as soon as is practicably possible, and requires the mandated  
            reporter to prepare and send a written follow-up report via  
            fax or electronic transmission, within 36 hours of receiving  
            the information concerning the incident.  (PC 11166 (a))


          5)Requires a mandated reporter to immediately, or as soon as is  
            practicably possible, submit a one-time automated written  
            report on a form provided by the Department of Justice (DOJ)  
            if, after reasonable efforts, the mandated reporter is unable  
            to submit an initial report by telephone.  Requires the  
            automated one-time report to contain a section that allows the  
            mandated reporter to state the reason the initial telephone  
            call was not able to be completed and requires that  
            information to be captured in the Child Welfare Services/Case  
            Management System (CWS/CMS), as specified.  (PC 11166(b))


          6)Provides that 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.  (PC 11172(a)) 


          7)Provides for statewide coordinated training for county child  
            protective services social workers and other members of the  
            child welfare delivery system, as specified.  (WIC 16206)


          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown.


          COMMENTS:


          Child abuse reporting:  Child Protective Services (CPS), which  
          is a component within county welfare agencies and part of the  








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          state's much broader Child Welfare Services system, is the  
          primary system charged with intervening and investigating  
          reported instances of child abuse and neglect, and taking the  
          appropriate steps to ensure a child's continued safety.  When it  
          is suspected that a child is a victim of physical, sexual, or  
          emotional abuse, or neglect or exploitation that results in harm  
          to the health and safety of the child, any person may report  
          that abuse or neglect to CPS.  Additionally, certain  
          individuals, such as physicians and teachers, are considered  
          mandated reporters and are required by law to immediately report  
          any suspicion or identification of child abuse or neglect to  
          local law enforcement or CPS.  After the referral is made - that  
          is, the alleged abuse or neglect is reported - a CPS social  
          worker is required to immediately investigate the referral to  
          determine its validity.  This process begins with gathering  
          information from the person making the referral to determine  
          what is being alleged and whether an in-person response is  
          needed.  If an in-person intervention reveals that abuse or  
          neglect likely occurred, the social worker may remove the child  
          in question from the family and place him or her into temporary  
          custody.  The ultimate goal is to keep the child in his or her  
          own home when it is safe, or to develop and alternate plan as  
          quickly as possible if the child is at risk.


          Need for this bill:  Under state law, any individual identified  
          as a mandated reporter is required to make an initial report of  
          child abuse or neglect immediately by telephone, which must be  
          followed by a written report within 36 hours.  While the  
          requirement to report by telephone ideally means that the agency  
          receiving the referral will be able to ask necessary questions  
          and assess whether the allegations necessitate an immediate  
          response, some calls are placed on hold for long periods of  
          time, often resulting in dropped calls.  Additionally, there is  
          no process through which to triage calls based on urgency, as  
          all referrals come in through the same county hotline.  


          Online abuse and neglect reporting systems are currently used in  








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          eight other states (Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Kansas,  
          Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas), which have reported  
          increased efficiencies in their child abuse response systems.   
          By allowing even limited access to an alternate reporting system  
          for non-emergency cases, this bill allows the mandated reporters  
          identified to continue to comply with their statutorily-mandated  
          reporting duties while freeing up county social worker time to  
          respond to more pressing referrals. 





          According to the author:


            "The Child Protective Hotline and emergency response system  
            that sends social workers to investigate allegations of abuse  
            and neglect is the first touch point between the public and  
            the county agency responsible for ensuring the safety of  
            thousands of vulnerable children.  Los Angeles County is the  
            largest in the state, with 2.4 million children and youth  
            between the ages of 0-20 years.  Currently the Department of  
            Child and Family Services (DCFS) employs 7,500 workers, 3,200  
            of which are children's social workers.  According to the DCFS  
            current budget report, over 214,000 calls were made to the  
            Child Protection Hotline last year.


            While DCFS has made great improvements to call/wait times on  
            the telephonic system, historically some years have seen  
            tremendous spikes in the amount of calls placed, with mandated  
            reporters waiting for long periods of time and sometimes  
            several hours to get through.  Every possible resource is  
            being used to ensure that any hotline calls are investigated  
            and the information is shared appropriately with law  
            enforcement and child advocates.  Yet, it is clear that child  
            abuse and neglect cases go up with the poverty and  
            unemployment rates.  Due to its sheer size, the workload for  








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            Los Angeles County social workers can be incredibly daunting  
            at critical times when resources become strained.  The goal  
            with the online reporting system will be to help to ensure  
            that long wait times remain in the past. 


            This pilot program is absolutely essential for the well-being  
            of so many at-risk kids.  By virtually eliminating wait times,  
            an online reporting system will increase efficiencies at every  
            level of the non-emergency and emergency response services.   
            [This bill] will be an excellent resource to help county  
            social workers assess and respond to child abuse and neglect  
            cases in a timely manner."


          RECOMMENDED AMENDMENTS:


          Should this bill be signed into law, the pilot program it  
          establishes for the optional use of an Internet-based reporting  
          system in lieu of reports of child abuse by telephone will be  
          implemented in January 2016 and sunset, unless further action is  
          taken, in January 2021.  While the Legislature could decide to  
          temporarily or permanently extend the authority granted in the  
          pilot, this bill does not require the outcomes of the pilot to  
          be captured or reported prior to the pilot program's potential  
          extension or termination.  In order to allow the Legislature to  
          make an informed decision about whether to ultimately allow the  
          pilot to end or to extend the authority for an Internet-based  
          child abuse reporting system, committee staff recommends this  
          bill be amended to do the following:


          1)Require participating counties and the County Welfare  
            Directors Association of California to develop outcome  
            measures to determine the effectiveness of the pilot program  
            for each county, which may include:

             a)   The total number of referrals provided by telephone and  








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               any increase or decrease in usage over time;

             b)   The number of referrals provided through the  
               Internet-based reporting system and any increase or  
               decrease in usage of the system over time;



             c)   Any increases or decreases in the number of emergency or  
               non-emergency referrals provided by telephone; and



             d)   Any increases or decreases in the overall number of  
               emergency or non-emergency referrals.



          2)Require participating counties to, on or before January 1,  
            2020, provide information to the Legislature pertaining to the  
            outcome measures developed.



          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:





          Support


          


          County Welfare Directors Association of California (CWDA),  
          co-sponsor









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          Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, co-sponsor


          Children's Law Center of CA


          California State Association of Counties (CSAC)


          Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs Committee  
          (CalSPAC)


          Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department


          Urban Counties Caucus (UCC)





          Opposition


          


          None on file.








          Analysis Prepared by:Myesha Jackson / HUM. S. / (916)  








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          319-2089