In February 2021, California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) introduced new legislation. Assembly Bill 506 (AB 506) aims to prevent child abuse in youth organizations.
If passed, AB 506 would require California youth organizations to implement child abuse prevention policies to receive insurance coverage. The bill would also require certain organization volunteers to be mandatory reporters.
“We’ve heard horrific stories of abuses against children that went unreported for decades. It’s not enough to hold abusers accountable after the fact. Parents should have the peace of mind that the adults who are entrusted to care for and provide a safe environment for our children are qualified and trained to catch incidents of abuse early on.”
AB 506 Targets Abuse In Youth Organizations
Assemblywoman Gonzalez introduced AB 506 on February 9, 2021. The bill incentivizes California youth organizations to proactively fight child abuse, including sexual abuse against minors. It does this through two main mechanisms: insurance and mandatory reporting.
AB 506 Tie Child Abuse Prevention Strategies To Insurance
In order to be insured, youth programs would have to create and implement prevention policies under AB 506. Such policies would require training on how to report suspected abuse.
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara discussed the bill’s focus on insurance coverage.
“This legislation would increase transparency and guarantee youth organizations have additional proactive measures in place to prevent child abuse. Our insurance companies can play a critical role in preventing child abuse through better volunteer training and reporting. I look forward to partnering with Assemblywoman Gonzalez on this public safety bill that would have insurance companies use their leverage for the public good and hold youth organizations that they insure accountable for their actions.”
AB 506 Broadens Scope Of Mandatory Reporters
AB 506 designates long-term volunteers as mandatory reporters. Under AB 506, any volunteer who works “more than 16 hours in a month or 32 hours in a year” would be required to be a certified mandatory reporter.
If the bill passes, long-term volunteers, staff and administrators would be required to take online mandated reporter training. Additionally, these individuals would have to undergo a background check.
Under California law, mandatory reporters are required to report suspected or confirmed child abuse and neglect to law enforcement and social services.
AB 506 Prompted By Abuse In Boy Scouts
AB 506 was inspired by the sexual abuse claims filed against the Boy Scouts of America. The scouting organization faces more than 90,000 claims of abuse spanning decades.
However, insurance providers for the Boy Scouts dropped coverage after learning the organization leaders knew of the abuse and did little to prevent it.
“They [Boy Scouts of America] knew a lot of these allegations and nobody was required to report them because they were volunteers. We’re not going to allow that anymore. We need to protect our children.”
In February 2020, the Boy Scouts filed for bankruptcy to handle the growing number of sexual abuse claims against it.
Gonzalez Works To Help Survivors
AB 506 continues Gonzalez’s work to help survivors of child sex abuse and prevent further abuse in the state of California. In 2019, California lawmakers passed another child abuse prevention bill sponsored by Gonzalez.
Assembly Bill 218 (AB 218) extended the legal deadline for child sexual abuse claims. Additionally, AB 218 opened a three-year “look back” window which revives all childhood sexual abuse claims no matter when the abuse took place.
California is one of several states with open “look back” windows. These windows have greatly expanded the rights of sexual abuse survivors. New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C. also have open “look back” windows.
Alford, A. (2021, February 9). New bill from San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez would require youth organizations to have child abuse prevention policies. CBS8.
Assembly Woman Lorena Gonzales District 80. (2021, February 9). New Assemblywoman Gonzalez Bill Protects Children from Abuse in Youth Organizations [Press Release].
Sheeler, A., Irby, K. (2021, February 10). GOP names unexpected target for 2022 + ACLU rates lawmakers + Volunteers as mandatory reporters. The Sacramento Bee.