Reporting and Disclosure Requirements

Reporting and disclosure requirements differ between child fatalities and near fatalities.  Please review the appropriate section below for information regarding disclosure in the case of a child fatality or a child near fatality.

Child Fatalities


Reporting to California Department of Social Services
In accordance with Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 10850.4 (j) and Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP), Division 31, section 31-502.12 and 31-502.122, the local child welfare agency is responsible for submitting the following information to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) using the State of California (SOC) 826 form, in all cases where a fatality has been determined to be the result of abuse and neglect, within ten business days of the determination. The SOC 826 includes the following elements:

  • The age and gender of the child.
  • The date of death.
  • Whether the child was in foster care or in the home of his or her parent or guardian at the time of death.
  • Whether an investigation is being conducted by a law enforcement agency or the county child welfare agency. 

Public Disclosure
When there is a reasonable suspicion that a child fatality was the result of abuse and neglect, the information below must be released to any member of the public, upon request, within five business days of the request:

  • The age and gender of the child.
  • The date of death.
  • Whether the child was in foster care or in the home of his or her parent or guardian at the time of death.
  • Whether an investigation is being conducted by a law enforcement agency or the county child welfare agency. 
On July 1, 2015, the CDSS adopted amendments to the child fatality reporting and disclosure regulations to clarify the implementation of Senate Bill 39 (Migden, Chapter 468, Statutes of 2007) . These regulations provide instructions regarding reporting by county child welfare agencies and public disclosure of findings and information. ACL 15-81, dated November 1, 2015, provides implementation guidance for the amended regulations. 

WIC § 10850.4(j) and MPP section 31-502.31 through 31-502.37 describe under what circumstances the county child welfare agency has a duty to disclose child fatality information, as well as the information and records the county child welfare agency is required to disclose when an agency makes the determination that abuse and/or neglect was the result of or contributed to a child’s death. These circumstances include: 

  • Abuse and/or neglect by a parent or guardian when the child was living with the parent or guardian.
  • Abuse and/or neglect by a person other than the parent or guardian when the child was living with the parent or guardian, and contributory neglect by the parent or guardian.
  • Abuse and/or neglect by a foster parent(s).
  • Abuse and/or neglect by a person other than the foster parent(s) when the child was living with the foster parent(s), and contributory by the foster parent(s).
  • Abuse and/or neglect by a person other than the parent, guardian, or foster parent(s), no contributory neglect by parent, guardian, or foster parent(s).
  • Abuse and/or neglect in non-residential child care.
  • Abuse and/or neglect by an unidentified when the child was living with the parent, guardian, or foster care provider.

The county child welfare agency shall disclose child fatality information when the child fatality was the result of abuse and/or neglect, or when abuse and/or neglect was a material contributing factor.  A material contributing factor is a factor that is more than inconsequential or incidental, which contributed to the cause or causes of the child fatality.  It is not necessary that the material contributing factor is the sole cause of the fatality, only that it contributed to the fatality in a way that was more than incidental or inconsequential.

Additional information on child fatality disclosure requirements can be found in ACL 15-81.

County welfare agencies are only required to disclose information already in the child welfare case file. The child welfare agency is not required to seek additional information or obtain additional documents not in the case file for disclosure.


Child Near Fatalities


AB 1625, signed by Governor Jerry Brown on September 13, 2016, requires the reporting and public disclosure, upon request, in the event of a child near fatality. In addition, ACL 08-13, ACL 09-02, ACL 10-06 and ACL 16-109 requires the county child welfare agency to report all near fatalities that are a result of abuse and/or neglect to CDSS. 

Definition
Pursuant to WIC § 10850.45, the definition of a near fatality is “an act that, as certified by a physician, places the child in serious or critical condition.”

A child abuse or neglect near fatality is one in which either child welfare or law enforcement has determined that abuse or neglect occurred and a physician has certified the child to be in serious or critical condition.

Report to California Department of Social Services
In accordance with Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) section 10850.45(k), the local child welfare agency is responsible for submitting the following information to the CDSS using the SOC 826 form, in all cases where a near fatality has been determined to be the result of abuse and/or neglect, within ten business days of the determination. The SOC 826 includes the following elements: 

  • The age and gender of the child.
  • The date of death.
  • Whether the child was in foster care or in the home of his or her parent or guardian at the time of death.
  • Whether an investigation is being conducted by a law enforcement agency or the county child welfare agency. 
Disclosure
The local child welfare agency is responsible for releasing the following information for cases of child near fatalities wherein it has been determined that the near fatality was caused by abuse and/or neglect.  This information is to be released to any member of the public, upon request, within ten business days of the request or the disposition of the investigation, whichever is later: 

  • The age and gender of the child.
  • The date of death.
  • Whether the child was in foster care or in the home of his or her parent or guardian at the time of death.
  • Whether an investigation is being conducted by a law enforcement agency or the county child welfare agency. 
Effective for all child near fatality incidents which happen on or after January 1, 2017, the following additional requirements apply when a member of the public has requested a disclosure of documents and records in a child near fatality incident.

Within 30 days of receiving a request for information or the disposition of the investigation, the county custodian of records shall release a written report containing the following:

  • The age and gender of the child.
  • The date of death.
  • Whether the child was in foster care or in the home of his or her parent or guardian at the time of death.
  • Whether an investigation is being conducted by a law enforcement agency or the county child welfare agency.
  • A description of reports received, child protective and other services provided, and actions taken by the county child welfare services agency, and juvenile court, if applicable, regarding both of the following:
    - Suspected or substantiated abuse or neglect of the child near fatality victim.
    - Suspected or substantiated abuse or neglect of other children that is related                                       to the abuse or neglect of the child near fatality victim.
This information is to be disclosed using the SOC 826A form.  In addition to the information contained in the SOC 826A, the county is responsible for releasing the following documents:

  1. The emergency response referral information form and emergency response notice of referral disposition form completed by the county child welfare agency relating to the abuse or neglect that caused the near fatality of the child.
  2. Any cross reports completed by the county child welfare services agency to law enforcement relating to the child suffering the near fatality.
  3. All risk and safety assessments completed by the county child welfare services agency relating to the child suffering the near fatality. 
  4. Copies of police reports, if available, about the person against whom the child abuse or neglect was substantiated.
  5. For cases in which the child’s near fatality occurred while the child was in foster care, the following documents must be disclosed in addition to those listed in (1) through (4):

a. Records pertaining to the foster parents’, relative/non-related extend family member’s (NREFM), or resource family’s initial licensing/approval and renewals and type of license or licenses held if in the case file.
b. All reported licensing violations, including notices of action, if in the case file.
c. Records of training completed by the foster parents or resource family, if in the case file.

The CDSS is in the process of developing regulations pursuant to AB 1625.  Until regulations are adopted, counties may rely on  ACL 16-109 for detailed instructions on reporting and disclosing on child near fatality incidents.

Contact Us

For questions related to Child Fatalities 
and/or Near Fatalities, please contact:

California Department of Social Services 
744 P Street, MS 8-12-90 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: (916) 651-8100 
Email: CFSDCriticalIncidents@dss.ca.gov

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