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Assembly Bill 506 Comes Into Effect; Congregations Look It Up!

Assembly Bill 506 became the law of the State of California on January 1, 2023.  It mandates that certain people who work with under 18 years of age children and youth are now mandated reporters of sexual and physical abuse and that all youth workers 18 years or over who work with youth 36 hours/year must be Live Scanned.

AB 506 is specifically written to prevent child abuse and sexual abuse in youth service organizations and businesses that provide services to minors.  Under AB506, a “business that provides services to minors” means a non-profit or for-profit business that meets the following requirements:

  • Primary purpose is to provide extracurricular services or instructions to youth under 18 years of age (does not include daycare or childcare providers)
  • Has adult employees with supervisory or disciplinary power over a child/ children

Under AB506, administrators, employees, and regular volunteers of youth service organizations are required to complete child abuse and neglect reporting training, also known as mandated reporter training.  This training is online from the state or through your insurance company.

The question is: does this law apply to churches and their programs?  The Presbytery’s attorney has said it does not.  Some of the insurance companies that handle liability insurance for churches say it does apply to churches.  This issue will probably not be legally resolved until enough cases are adjudicated.

Please, as you consider how to respond to this new law, check with your insurance company.  They will be the one that has to defend you in court so it is best to meet their requirements as a church.

If your insurance company does require you to draft policies and put into place training for your staff, there are churches in the Presbytery whose insurance company is requiring compliance.  If you need help setting up the Live Scan account with the Department of Justice so the result of the Live Scan comes directly to your church and not to other child and youth organizations, call Magnolia Presbyterian Church or First Presbyterian Church of San Bernardino for information on how to set up an account.

Because there are different interpretations of the law about who needs to undergo mandatory training, you need to consult your insurance company as to their requirements.  There are different interpretations of the law such as if ordered ministers (Deacons, Ruling Elders on Session, and Teaching Elders) all must undergo the mandatory training as well as those who have direct contact with children.

Please give serious consideration to how your church will address this new law.  It could be very costly to the church if no action is taken.  Please consult with your insurance company and then take action.

As a reminder, ordered ministers are mandated reporters according to our Book of Order (G-4.0302—read it!  It gives caveats such as when the abuse comes to light in confidential communication as defined under the previous section.)

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