Do you know which employees, administrators, and clergy members in your church have mandated reporter training requirements?
Church administrators and leaders in California are likely familiar with their mandatory reporting duties and may employ several different types of mandated reporters. Even non-paid volunteers within your church may need to stay up-to-date on mandatory reporting training.
Find out who the reporters are in your church, their training requirements, and how to implement an official mandated reporter training program within your religious organization.
A Guide to Mandated Reporter Training for Church Employees and Volunteers
If you are a leader or administrator of a church in California, this guide to mandated reporter training for church employees and volunteers can help you better understand the training requirements your team members are subject to.
Who Are Mandated Reporters in California?
A mandated reporter is a person required by law to report suspected instances of abuse or neglect of a vulnerable class, such as children, the elderly, and dependent adults.
In California, most mandated reporters are designated by profession. This list includes multiple types of reporters who may be employees of your church or religious organization, including:
- Clergy members
- Licensed childcare providers
- Private school teachers and school employees
As you can see, many of the people employed at a church fit this description of a person legally required to report abuse in California. Here are a few of the different types of mandatory reporters that may be working at your church:
Clergy Members are Mandated Reporters
California is one of many states that identifies clergy members as legally responsible for identifying and reporting suspected abuse and neglect.
In California, clergy members are mandated reporters of:
- Child abuse and neglect
- Elder and dependent adult abuse and neglect
California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, or CANRA, identifies “clergy members,” including any priest, minister, rabbi, religious practitioner, or similar functionary of a church, temple, or recognized denomination or organization, as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect.
California’s Welfare and Institutions Code identifies clergy members (as defined above) as mandated reporters of elder and dependent adult abuse.
Childcare Providers are Mandated Reporters
If your church offers childcare or daycare services, then the administrators and employees providing that service are mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect in California.
Not only are childcare employees and administrators mandated reporters, but California ties mandated reporter training to childcare licensing. If your church offers licensed childcare, all employees and administrators must train within their first 90 days of employment and renew that mandated reporter training every two years.
Teachers and School Employees are Mandated Reporters
Some churches provide school services to their congregation members. If your church operates a school, teachers and other school employees are mandated reporters of child abuse, even if the school is private. This includes:
- Teacher’s aid or assistant
- Administrative officers
- Supervisor of child welfare or attendance
Educators in California have an annual mandated reporter training requirement.
Youth Services Employees, Admins, and Volunteers Must Take Mandated Reporter Training
Many churches offer services for youth, including summer camps, youth recreation programs, youth groups, or other youth services. Under CANRA, employees and administrators of these youth services programs are mandatory reporters of child abuse in California.
The volunteers who help you run your youth programs are also subject to new mandated reporter training requirements.
California Assembly Bill 506 went into effect in 2023, adding additional protections for minors by requiring youth services organizations to develop and implement child abuse prevention policies that include mandatory background checks and mandated reporter training for all administrators, employees, and regular volunteers.
CA AB 506 is unique in that it is the first bill that allows insurers to request proof of compliance before writing liability insurance for a youth service organization.
Custodians of Records are Mandated Reporters
Administrative assistants, secretaries, or other custodians of records in your church are designated as mandated reporters of child abuse. If you have care and control over records in your church, from collecting prayer cards to accessing personnel files, you are considered a custodian of records.
It’s important to note that “custodian of records” is rarely someone’s official job title. The legal definition of a custodian of records is any employee who exercises control over the organization’s records in the ordinary course of business, and that can include administrative assistants, secretaries, office managers, and other administrative roles within your church.
Anyone With Direct Contact or Supervision of Children
Any administrator, board member, or employee of a public or private organization whose duties require direct contact and supervision of children is a mandated reporter in California. Do you have employees who are leading Sunday school classes or teen youth groups? Any person in your organization whose duties require direct contact or supervision of children can be considered a mandated reporter.
What Do Mandated Reporters Need to Know?
Now that you know which church employees and administrators may be mandated reporters, let’s look at what that legal responsibility entails. Mandated reporters are legally required to identify and report suspected instances of abuse.
In order to fulfill their duties, mandated reporters must know:
- What constitutes abuse or neglect
- How to recognize the signs of potential abuse and neglect
- When to make a report
- How to make a report
- Where to submit a report
Penalties for Failing to Report
Mandatory reporters who fail in their duty to report can face significant penalties, including jail time, fines, or both. These penalties get more severe for a mandated reporter who willfully fails to report when that abuse or neglect results in great bodily injury or death. Anyone who interferes with or inhibits a report can also face penalties.
There can be some confusion in terms of confidentiality and mandated reporting duties for clergy members who receive confessions. If a clergy member regularly takes confessions from church members, what is their responsibility to report when a church member admits to abusing a child or an elderly adult?
Clergy-penitent privacy, which is sometimes known as priest-penitent privacy, refers to the confidentiality of pastoral communications. Many religious faiths have long traditions of the sanctity of confessions and policies affirming the inviolability of religious confidentiality.
California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act (CANRA) provides a limited exclusion for clergy-penitent privacy. In the event that a clergy member receives a penitential communication or confession made in confidence, it may fall under the protection of clergy-penitent privacy.
Clergy-penitent privacy has very limited protections in California. It does not cover all church employees, volunteers, or members, for example. It can only be used by a clergy member, such as a priest, minister, or rabbi, who is authorized to take confessions. It does not extend to non-clergy, such as nuns, elders or deacons, unordained or self-proclaimed ministers, or religious counselors.
Clergy-penitent privacy does not exclude a clergy member from reporting instances of suspected abuse discovered in non-confessional situations. For example, if a priest sees signs of physical abuse on a child and asks the child how they got hurt, the child’s admission of abuse would not be considered protected under clergy-penitent privacy.
Clergy-penitent privacy does not exclude a clergy member from their mandated reporting duties or from taking mandated reporter training. It only offers limited protections for confessions of abuse made in confidence to an ordained clergy member. Mandated reporter training can help clergy members understand when this reporting exemption applies.
Are You Required to Provide Mandated Reporter Training?
As an employer, are you required by law to provide mandated reporter training for the many mandatory reporters in your church organization?
Mandated reporter training helps mandatory reporters understand their duties to report and provides the information they need to identify potential abuse and know when, where, and how to file a report.
In some instances, you may be required as an employer to provide mandated reporter training.
- California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act requires that employees provide training for daycare/ childcare employees and administrators within 90 days of employment with a two-year renewal requirement.
- Educators must be provided with mandated reporter training annually.
- Volunteers of organizations that provide services to children must complete mandated reporter training, and insurers can request proof of compliance before issuing general liability policies to that organization.
Even if you are not required to provide mandated reporter training for your organization, CANRA is clear that “employers are strongly encouraged to provide their employees who are mandated reporters with training” in their duties.
Organizing Mandated Reporter Training for Your Church
The Mandated Reporter Training platform offers a solution for churches and religious organizations to make deploying and managing training for mandatory reporters easy.
The mandatory reporter training courses on the Mandated Reporter Training platform were created in partnership with the California Office of Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP) and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS).
Free Role-Specific Training
The Mandated Reporter Training platform offers profession-specific training courses designed to address the specific concerns of varying professionals with regard to identifying and reporting suspected neglect and abuse. You can find profession-specific modules for clergy members, teachers and school employees, daycare providers, and volunteers. See the Mandated Reporter Training course catalog.
Trainees can easily access their training materials on the cloud-based training system on any digital device. A certificate of completion is issued once the training has been completed. Each certificate has a unique identifier, preventing issues of fraudulent certificates and ensuring the integrity of your church’s training program.
Organization Accounts for Better Management and Tracking
The Mandated Reporter Training platform offers organization accounts for churches and other organizations that need to implement and manage training for multiple mandated reporters.
Administrators can access an organization dashboard specifically designed to make managing an organization easy. As an organization administrator, you can add training modules, group them together, and invite users to take specific training courses. You can track progress and training completions and see when a user needs to renew a particular training course or when a certificate of completion is about to expire. If you need to provide proof of training for insurance purposes, dashboard reporting functionality makes it simple and easy to do so.
Every day, thousands of mandated reporters in California log in to the Mandated Reporter Training platform to get the training they need to fulfill their legal obligations as mandated reporters.
Mandated Reporters Help Protect the Vulnerable
Clergy members and employees within your religious organization have a legal duty to protect the vulnerable against abuse and neglect. In addition, volunteers at your religious organization are now required to take mandated reporter training.
CA mandatory reporting laws and requirements for mandated reporter training may feel like an administrative burden, but at the heart of the requirements is a desire by lawmakers and social service agencies to protect children, dependent adults, and the elderly.
To learn more about the ways the Mandated Reporter Training platform can help your church protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect, register for a free individual account or an organization account and begin your mandated reporter training today.