Updated: BBS legal opinion improves, doesn’t fix, child abuse reporting issue

California mandated child abuse reporters would no longer need to discriminate against gay or lesbian youth. But the legal opinion is just that: An opinion.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

A legal opinion announced on Thursday by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences appears to go partway to resolving the problem of discriminatory reporting of child abuse.

The opinion, prepared at BBS request by legal counsel for the Department of Consumer Affairs, essentially says that oral sex, anal sex, and object penetration should be treated the same as vaginal intercourse when considering abuse reporting. If two minors of similar ages (as defined by the law; see the age combination descriptions in this earlier post) engage in consensual acts without evidence of coercion or other signs of abuse, those acts are not reportable.

BBS Executive Director Kim Madsen announced at Thursday’s Policy and Advocacy Committee meeting that she would make the full legal opinion public. While the opinion does not carry the weight of law, it should be helpful for therapists seeking to understand when the BBS expects child abuse reports to be made, and when the therapist can rely on their own judgment as to what is abusive.

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