April 28, 2023
On September 16, 2021, California Assembly Bill 506 (“AB 506”) was voted in to amend Section 18975 of the Business and Professions Code. Effective as of January 1, 2022, AB 506 added all youth service organizations to the list of organizations whose volunteers must: (1) complete training in child abuse and neglect identification and reporting, (2) undergo a background check to identify and exclude any person with a history of child abuse, (3) ensure mandatory reporting of suspected incidents of child abuse to persons or entities outside of the organization, and (4) require two mandatory reporters whenever in contact or in the supervision of children. Essentially, AB 506 creates the standard of care in California for youth service organizations, including the large majority of churches and ministries, to take reasonable steps to address the risks of child abuse and neglect.
1. An administrator, employee, or regular volunteer of a youth service organization shall complete training in child abuse and neglect identification and training in child abuse and neglect reporting. The training requirement may be met by completing the online mandated reporter training provided by the Office of Child Abuse Prevention in the State Department of Social Services.
2. An administrator, employee, or regular volunteer of a youth service organization shall undergo a background check pursuant to Section 11105.3 of the Penal Code to identify and exclude any persons with a history of child abuse.
3. A youth service organization shall develop and implement child abuse prevention policies and procedures, including, but not limited to, policies to ensure the reporting of suspected incidents of child abuse to persons or entities outside of the organization, including the reporting required pursuant to Section 11165.9 of the Penal Code and policies requiring, to the greatest extent possible, the presence of at least two mandated reporters whenever administrators, employees, or volunteers are in contact with, or supervising, children.
4. Before writing liability insurance for a youth service organization in this state, an insurer may request information demonstrating compliance with this section from the youth service organization as part of the insurer’s loss control program.
For purposes of this section: “Regular volunteer” means a volunteer with the youth service organization who is 18 years of age or older and who has direct contact with, or supervision of, children for more than 16 hours per month or 32 hours per year. “Youth service organization” means an organization that employs or utilizes the services of persons who, due to their relationship with the organization, are mandated reporters. (Bus. & Prof. Code §18975.) Most churches fall under this category of youth service organizations by providing programs such as youth groups, day care, Sunday school, etc., and are therefore, subject to this law.
Under this law, youth service organizations were required to meet these new requirements by January 1, 2022. Since then, on September 6, 2022, California Assembly Bill 2669 (“AB 2669”) was voted in, changing two of the four provisions required by AB 506 relating to background checks and the presence of mandated reporters. AB 2669, which took effect on January 1, 2023, excludes from the background check requirement, until January 1, 2024, youth organizations that, prior to January 1, 2022, did not require administrators, employees, or regular volunteers to undergo background checks. To ensure fulfillment of the background check requirement it must include: (1) that the employer makes a request to the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) for information regarding all convictions or arrests pending adjudication and (2) the request must include the applicant’s fingerprints and shall be made using a form approved by the DOJ.
AB 2669 does not require two mandated reporters to be present when an organization provides one-to-one mentoring to youth and has developed and implemented policies to ensure reporting of suspected incidents of child abuse to persons or entities outside of the organization, comprehensive screening of volunteers, training of volunteers and parents or guardians, and regular contact with volunteers and parents or guardians. It is recommended that if a church feels it falls within the exempt category of this provision, that it consults with an attorney to ensure its adherence to these requirements.
The California legislature’s intention with AB 506 and AB 2669 was to create a standard of care for youth service organizations in preventing child abuse and neglect. A church, often being considered a youth service organization by legal definition, should be properly informed on these requirements not only for the purposes of insurance and liability but also for the intent of protecting the children and families within its congregation.
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AB 506 creates the standard of care in California for youth service organizations, including the large majority of churches and ministries, to take reasonable steps to address the risks of child abuse and neglect.