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California family lawyerChildren deserve to have their health and safety protected, whether they are at home, at school, or under the supervision of a daycare provider, coach, or doctor. In order to safeguard children from the threat of abuse, the state of California has put legal measures in place to ensure that potential cases of child abuse or neglect are reported and investigated. When a person is being investigated for suspected child abuse, they should understand the processes that will be followed, their rights in the investigation, and the potential outcomes.

Reports of Suspected Abuse or Neglect

According to the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), a person who reasonably suspects that a child has been the victim of abuse or neglect can make a report to a law enforcement agency. Certain “mandated reporters,” such as teachers, doctors, therapists, members of the clergy, or day care center employees, are required by law to make these reports.

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California family lawyerChild abuse is a serious offense in the state of California. Reports of suspected abuse will trigger an investigation that can result in an alleged abuser being placed on the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). Inclusion in the CACI can affect a person’s employability in certain industries, their ability to volunteer for certain organizations, and their eligibility to adopt a child or act as a foster parent. When facing accusations of child abuse, it is important to understand what exactly constitutes abuse or neglect under California law.

The California Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) (California Penal Code Article 2.5) defines the following acts as child abuse or neglect:

  • Injury - Physical harm or death inflicted non-accidentally upon a child.
  • Sexual abuse - Acts consisting of (1) sexual assault, including rape, statutory rape, incest, lewd or lascivious acts upon a child, or sexual contact with a child, or (2) sexual exploitation, including the depiction of children engaging in obscene acts, compensating children for performing sexual acts, accessing or distributing child pornography, or sexual trafficking.
  • Neglect - Negligent treatment or mistreatment of a child by a person responsible for their care, resulting in a threat to the child’s health or welfare. Neglect falls into two categories: (1) severe neglect, which consists of failing to protect a child from severe malnutrition or wilfully causing or permitting a child’s health or person to be in danger, and (2) general neglect, which consists of the failure to provide a child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, supervision, or medical care, even if a child is not physically injured as a result.
  • Child endangerment - Wilfully endangering a child’s health or safety, including inflicting or allowing unjustified physical or mental pain or permitting a child to be placed in a situation in which they are in danger of harm.
  • Unlawful corporal punishment - Willfully inflicting cruel or inhuman punishment or causing an injury which results in a traumatic condition. The law makes exceptions for the use of reasonable force to deal with a threat of physical injury or property damage at a public school, including acts of self-defense and actions taken to remove weapons or dangerous objects from a pupil’s possession.

California law defines a child as someone under the age of 18. Harm suffered in a conflict between minors is not considered child abuse and reasonable force used by a police officer who is carrying out their duties does not constitute child abuse or neglect.

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California family lawyerChild abuse is an ongoing concern in the state of California, and the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) is designed to help protect children who may be at risk. Under this law, reports of suspected child abuse or neglect will result in an investigation, and if a social worker finds that the report is substantiated--meaning that they believe the alleged abuse was likely to have occurred--the suspected abuser will have their name added to the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI), in addition to any criminal charges and personal repercussions they may face.

Mandated Reporters

CANRA states that certain people are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect to a police department, sheriff’s department, county probation department, or county welfare department. These people are known as “mandated reporters,” and they include:

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California family lawyerUnder California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA), certain people are required to make a report to law enforcement when they reasonably suspect that a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect. These reports will trigger an investigation, and if a social worker believes that there is evidence that the alleged abuse was likely to have occurred, they will forward the substantiated report to the California Department of Justice (DOJ), and the alleged abuser will be placed on the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI).

Being listed in the CACI can have a major impact on a person’s life, affecting their ability to find employment, serve as a volunteer, adopt a child, or act as a foster parent. Fortunately, California law provides people with the ability to dispute their inclusion in the CACI.

CACI Grievance Hearings

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California family lawyerChildren are some of the most vulnerable members of our society, especially when they are in danger of abuse by the people who are responsible for raising and caring for them. In order to help keep children safe, the state of California has put several laws in place designed to protect them from abuse and neglect, including the establishment of the Child Abuse Central Index (CACI). However, these laws can negatively affect people who are falsely accused of child abuse. During child abuse investigations, it is important to know your rights and understand how the laws affect you.

Understanding the CACI

In California, when a report of suspected child abuse or severe neglect is made to a law enforcement agency, a social worker will investigate the situation. If they find that the report is substantiated (meaning that they believe that it is more likely than not that the alleged abuse actually occurred), their report will be forwarded to the Child Abuse Central Index, which is administered by the California Attorney General.

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