BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                     SB 478  


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          Date of Hearing:  August 26, 2015


                        ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS


                                 Jimmy Gomez, Chair


          SB 478  
          (Huff) - As Amended August 18, 2015


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          Urgency:  No  State Mandated Local Program:  NoReimbursable:  No


          SUMMARY:


          This bill authorizes specified county welfare agencies to  
          develop a five-year pilot program for Internet-based reporting  
          of child abuse and neglect.  The bill requires the Department of  
          Social Services (DSS) to oversee and administer the pilot, and  








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          requires participating counties to develop outcome measures and  
          report to the Legislature on the effectiveness of the pilot  
          program.


          FISCAL EFFECT:


          1)Minor costs, likely less than $75,000 (GF) annually to DSS to  
            oversee and administer the program.


          2)Minor one-time costs (GF) to DSS to consult with the County  
            Welfare Directors Association of California and any interested  
            county welfare agencies to determine county involvement in the  
            pilot program.


          3)Because the program is optional for counties, any costs  
            incurred by participating agencies are not reimbursable by the  
            State. 


          COMMENTS:


          1)Purpose.  State law requires any individual identified as a  
            mandated reporter 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.  
            









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            According to the author, "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."


          2)Background. The Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA)  
            requires a mandated reporter, as defined, to make a report to  
            a specified agency 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 suspects has been the  
            victim of child abuse or neglect. Existing law enumerates 44  
            categories of mandated reporters of child abuse or neglect. 


            The mandated reporter must make an initial report by telephone  
            to the agency immediately or as soon as is practicably  
            possible, and to send, fax, or electronically transmit a  
            written follow-up report within 36 hours of receiving the  
            information concerning the incident. 


            Reports of suspected child abuse or neglect must be made to a  
            police department or sheriff's department, not including a  
            school district police or security department, a county  
            probation department if designated by the county to receive  
            mandated reports, or a county welfare department. These  
            agencies are required to accept a report of suspected child  
            abuse or neglect whether offered by a mandated reporter or  
            another person, or referred by another agency, even if the  
            agency lacks jurisdiction to investigate the reported case,  
            unless the agency can immediately electronically transfer the  
            call to an agency with proper jurisdiction. 









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            When an agency takes a report about a case of suspected child  
            abuse or neglect in which that agency lacks jurisdiction, the  
            agency is required to immediately refer the case by telephone,  
            fax, or electronic transmission to an agency with proper  
            jurisdiction. Agencies that are required to receive reports of  
            suspected child abuse or neglect may not refuse to accept a  
            report of suspected child abuse or neglect from a mandated  
            reporter or another person unless otherwise authorized, and  
            are required to maintain a record of all reports received. 





            Online abuse and neglect reporting systems are currently used  
            in eight other states (Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Kansas,  
            Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas), which have  
            reported increased efficiencies in their child abuse response  
            systems.  





          3)Related Legislation.  SB 332 (Block) 2015 would have  
            authorized school district police departments to receive  
            mandated reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. This  
            bill was held on the Senate Appropriations Committee's  
            Suspense File. 



          4)Prior  
          Legislation.5)AB 776 (Chu) Chapter 713, Statutes of 2005, authorized the  
            filing of a one-time alternate faxed or electronic mandated  








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            reporting form on suspected child abuse in lieu of the initial  
            telephone report, as specified. DSS was required to submit a  
            report to the Legislature at the end of the three-year  
            operative period or January 1, 2009, to provide data about the  
            use of the alternative method of reporting.  The use of the  
            new reporting form was contingent upon the completion of  
            necessary modifications to the electronic reporting system  
            which did not occur within the timeframes provided.


          


          Analysis Prepared by:Jennifer Swenson / APPR. / (916)  
          319-2081