CA Child Abuse Law AB506- Philadelphia Insurance Companies

Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Law in California

At the beginning of 2022, California's Assembly Bill No. 506 (AB-506) became law, codifying specific requirements for youth service organizations when conducting background checks, providing training, and developing policies and procedures meant to protect children from sexual abuse in their programming.

Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), in partnership with Greg Love, co-founder and director of Abuse Prevention Systems (APS), also known as MinistrySafe, wants Californian organizations to be aware of the new law and ensure they are equipped with the tools and resources they need to provide a safe and nurturing environment for children in their programming. The information below will highlight some of the requirements of the law.

In addition, PHLY encourages organizational leaders to review Love's explainer video, found at MinistrySafe for religious organizations and APS for all other youth service organizations.

Breaking Down California AB-506

The requirements proposed in AB-506 should not be new to organizations who provide services to children. Many are already completing comprehensive background checks, general awareness and hiring-focused training, and have policies and procedures tailored to their specific operations, all rooted in the grooming process. This new legislation adds some specific requirements that organizations should be aware of, including who is considered a Youth Service Organization.

Is Your Organization a Youth Service Organization?

AB-506 sets a standard of care, the concept of taking reasonable steps to prevent a foreseeable risk (in this case child sexual abuse), for Youth Service Organizations. The law defines who is considered a Youth Service Organization by referencing the CA Penal Code. Unfortunately, as is the case with many pieces of legislation, the definition is slightly confusing, and a bit circular. Love points out that the law basically states "a Youth Service Organization is defined as an organization that utilizes a person from a youth organization."

Ultimately, Love suggests that since child protection legislation is always meant to be read as broadly as possible, if your organization provides services to children in California, you are covered by AB-506. This includes churches, scouting programs, camps, youth sport organizations, mentoring programs, and similar child-serving organizations.

Fingerprinting Requirement for Background Checks

Background checks tend to be one of the first risk management activities organizations take to protect the children in their programs. Many use third-party providers, such as PHLY's partner Intellicorp, who have packages that search a variety of records, including municipal, county, state, federal, civil, and sex offender registry records. AB-506 adds a caveat that can make complying with the law a bit more complicated.

AB-506 now requires Youth Service Organizations to conduct background checks pursuant to CA Penal Code Section 11105.3. In short, the section states:

  • The employer makes the request for the criminal record from the California Department of Justice
  • The request must include the applicant's fingerprints with a form that has been approved by the California Department of Justice.

California has the Live Scan process for running background checks pursuant to this penal code section. Some organizations may already be using the system in conjunction with their other searches. But for those unfamiliar and others who may be reading the law as the only type of background check they need to complete, several challenges are presented by this rule:

  • It is a manual process (the organization provides the applicant with the approved form, the applicant completes the form and takes it to a Live Scan site where the technician rolls the fingerprints and then submits the request)
  • It is limited to fingerprint offenses
  • It is limited to the state of California
  • It does not search sex offender registries
  • It is not integrated into HR systems
  • Third-party providers are most likely unable to provide this service
  • There are costs associated with the search in some instances

Love stresses that California Youth Service Organizations should not make the above outlined search their only effort for criminal history. Organizations should continue to supplement the search required by AB-506 with the broader searches provided by their third-party providers that include all states, sex offender registry, counties, and possibly more depending on the position and populations served.

Broader Training Requirement

Unlike the background check requirement, AB-506 does not mandate a specific training module or provide other guidance on specifics (length, live or online, frequency, quiz, record keeping, etc.). The law does state that the requirement can be met by using the Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Training provided by the Office of Child Abuse Prevention in the State Department of Social Services (SDSS). What the law does stipulate is that Youth Service Organizations must provide training in child abuse and neglect identification and reporting, indicating that the training should not just cover sexual abuse, but more broadly child abuse and neglect, which includes sexual abuse.

While the training provided by the SDSS is an option, it is four hours long, does not integrate into an organization's learning management system (LMS), and does not provide a way to send, track, refresh, or manage the training. APS and MinistrySafe does provide general awareness training with an LMS platform that addresses the topics required, in addition to the grooming process, and a separate Skillfull Screening training designed specifically for those who interview prospective employees and volunteers.

Some organizations may wonder who in their organization should be taking these trainings. AB-506 does define these individuals ultimately as mandated reporters, but like the definition for Youth Service Organizations, it can seem convoluted. Ultimately, it comes down to this: anybody who wears a nametag in your organization (admin, employee, regular volunteer) are mandated reporters and should be receiving this training.

AB-506 and Policies and Procedures

AB-506's requirements for Youth Service Organizations are pretty straightforward when it comes to having a written framework for what is and is not permissible within a program related to sexual abuse risk. Specifically, the law dictates that these procedures must ensure the reporting of suspected incidents of child abuse to persons or entities outside of the organization and that two mandated reporters should be present when working with children in the program.

In addition to these two elements, a strong program should also consider the following:

  • A framework rooted in the grooming process
  • Strong protocols around any trusted time alone (if allowed)
  • Protocols around electronic communication and social media
  • Communication and reporting processes that are well defined and articulated
  • A proactive approach that helps identify when grooming may be occurring and keeps a possible offender out of the organization through adequate screening and training

It's also important for organizations to realize that their policies and procedures may look different compared to another. They should be crafted with the organization's specific operations and programming in mind.

Resources Available to PHLY Policyholders

PHLY policyholders with sexual abuse and molestation coverage have access to abuse prevention resources at no additional cost through Abuse Prevention Systems (for non-religious organization) and MinistrySafe (for religious organizations). In addition to training resources, policy and procedure templates are available to help organizations craft a strong child sexual abuse prevention plan.

To learn more about the risk of child sexual abuse, please visit our previous blog posts:

IMPORTANT NOTICE - The information and suggestions presented by Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company is for your consideration in your loss prevention efforts. They are not intended to be complete or definitive in identifying all hazards associated with your business, preventing workplace accidents, or complying with any safety related, or other, laws or regulations. You are encouraged to alter them to fit the specific hazards of your business and to have your legal counsel review all of your plans and company policies.

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