Los Angeles County Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath has advanced a unanimously supported motion, co-authored by Chair Janice Hahn, to transition from a system of mandated reporting to mandated supporting. The motion directs Los Angeles County to join a growing movement, at the State and National level, to reform mandated reporting systems. The focus of the motion is to equip Mandated Reporters with new standards and training to ensure consistent, accurate, and equitable reporting; and to build out a network of community-based services to more appropriately meet the needs of children and families. 

“Parents in Los Angeles deserve access to the services of our County without fear of punishment simply for seeking help. Moving to a ‘mandated supporter’ framework has the power to keep kids in loving homes by connecting families to essential resources like food, transportation, and medical care,” said Supervisor Lindsey P. Horvath. “I’m proud to support the foundational work of the Commission for Children and Families and the Department of Children and Families to build out a new system for reporting that prevents children who are not being harmed from entering the child welfare system when such action is not necessary nor in their best interest.” 

“Mandated reporting is meant to protect children, but we have seen how this system can have unintended consequences that make children and families more vulnerable – especially in communities of color,” said Chair Janice Hahn, Fourth District. “This shift to mandated supporter is about getting any struggling family the help and support they need to keep kids safe, healthy, and out of the child welfare system.” 

In theory, mandatory reporting protects children from child abuse and neglect. In practice, mandated reporting results in the child welfare system’s oversurveillance and traumatization of marginalized communities of color; potentially increases child and family vulnerability; and overburdens the system. The largest category of reports made to Los Angeles County’s Child Abuse Hotline are from mandated reporters — professionals like teachers, law enforcement, and medical staff — who are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Only a fraction (16%) of the total reports made (82.5%) are determined to be substantiated. In many of these cases, connections to community-based services are the appropriate intervention. 

“Our highest purpose is to work closely with parents, so that they may safely care for their own children,” said Brandon T. Nichols, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. “This motion paves the way for a more effective system by which Los Angeles County communities may better support families experiencing difficult circumstances. It also will allow child welfares services to provide more intensive help in situations involving child abuse or severe neglect.” 

“Mandated reporting — in its current iteration — is a deeply flawed and ineffective policy response to our societal responsibility to ensure that children are not harmed,” said Dr. Tamara N. Hunter, Executive Director of the LA County Commission for Children and Families. “In passing this motion, the Board has propelled the County toward our goal of transforming into a just and holistic child and family well-being system.” 

To transition to a mandated supporter system, the Board’s motion directed the following: 

The Commission for Children and Families, in partnership with the Department of Children and Family Services and Office of Child Protection, to rethink our current system, building up a system of community-based supports that families can be referred to instead of reporting them to the Hotline; 

Standardized training for all mandatory supporters; 

A review of Hotline data to help understand who is calling the Hotline and why to develop decision making processes to help mandated supporters make more accurate, consistent, and equitable decisions about whether to report to the Hotline or connect the family to community-based resources; 

Development of further recommendations for the redesign of the front end of the County’s child welfare system to align with the vision of reforming mandated reporting and building up community prevention networks; and 

An exploration of sustainable funding. 

A report will return to the Board in 180 days.  

To learn more about this work and to get involved, please contact the Commission for Children and Families at ccfcommission@bos.lacounty.gov.

Constance Farrell, Communications Director