AB 506: 2 Years Later

by | May 9, 2024

In February of 2021, Assembly Bill 506 began making its way through the California Legislature. It was signed into law and became Business and Professions Code Section 18975 on January 1, 2022.

Following the passage of AB 506, organizations and ministries providing programs for minors have worked to bring their operations into compliance. Given the high-profile nature of child and sexual abuse scandals, youth service organizations have worked hard to find sufficient resources to comply with this new legislation. Even two years later, some organizations are still wrestling with implementation.

Some of the complications revolve around these issues:

  • Who needs to be trained?
  • What type of training do we need to provide?
  • Who must be Live Scanned?
  • What is involved in getting an ORI number?
  • What is the Custodian of Records?
  • What kind of policies and procedures do we need to have?
  • How do we address the two mandated-reporter requirement?

Who needs to be trained?

AB 506 legislation delineates who must be trained. Simply put, it is administrators, staff, and volunteers. While this legislation allows exceptions for some volunteers serving less than 16 hours in a month or 32 hours in a year, it is a best practice – and you may find it simpler – to adopt a policy that, in an abundance of caution and safety for protecting children, trains everyone within the organization. This will also save you the cumbersome task of tracking how many hours each volunteer serves.

Organization leaders have likely faced questions about who needs to be trained. It is best to prepare yourself for responses like, “I already received training elsewhere.”  While that may be true, you do not know the content or quality of that training, and it may not be consistent with the training your organization provides your other staff and volunteers. AB 506 requires your organization to provide training to all your regular volunteers or anyone working in direct supervision of children. The simpler question you may want to ask is, “Could this volunteer come into direct contact with a child on our campus?” If the answer is yes, then they should be trained.

What kind of training is required?

There are choices available for training, and fortunately, the legislation allows this training to be completed online through the State of California Department of Social Services, or the Office of Child Abuse Prevention which has provided a version of this training. The free training can be found at: https://www.mandatedreporterca.com/

Though it may be free, it can be time-consuming and may not be the most appropriate for your organization. A basic internet search of AB 506 Training will also reveal a lengthy list of providers. However, Church HR Network has designed two online options tailored specifically with ministries in mind. One of them is the Child Abuse Recognition & Reporting Training for Volunteers, which is only 60 minutes and includes simple quizzes to confirm that viewers understand the material. Completion of this course provides a certificate of completion for ministry files.

Another Church HR Network training for all ministry staff personnel is the Mandated Reporter Training. This 90-minute module includes quizzes and provides a certificate of completion, as well.

An option for ministries outside California is the Advanced Child Protection Training which discusses in-depth a host of best practices for organizations to adopt to protect children, workers, and the ministry.

These trainings are free to all Church HR Network “HR 180” and “HR 360” members as part of your monthly subscription. There is no limit to how many volunteers an organization can add as long as they are part of your ministry.

Who needs a Live Scan criminal history check and what does that mean?

Business and Professions Code §18975 specifies the following:

“[Volunteers] shall undergo a background check pursuant to Section 11105.3 of the Penal Code,” which specifically states that these background checks must be done via fingerprint which means Live Scan.

Using other forms of background checks such as online providers or private investigative agencies is a good practice, but in California, they may only supplement a Live Scan criminal history check, not replace it. In California, a background check by third-party provider alone is not AB 506 compliant.  

For a ministry to utilize Live Scan, they must obtain an ORI (originating agency) number from the California Department of Justice. This is a unique organization/ministry identification number which allows the agency to receive criminal history reports, also known as Live Scan results. To obtain an ORI from the DOJ, an organization/ministry must also designate a person to collect this data. This person is known as the Custodian of Records (COR) who will receive and maintain this confidential Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) in compliance with strict statutory requirements.

How do we get an ORI number and establish a Custodian of Records?

The California Department of Justice issues an ORI number after an application from your organization is received, reviewed, and accepted. There are detailed instructions on this process in the Church HR Network document library. Additionally, our staff is available to assist you with this process and will even review your application before you submit it to ensure the likelihood it will be approved on the first submission. You can review the application here: https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/media/crimrec-packet.pdf

WARNING:  This can be a lengthy process. Because of the sheer volume of organizations and persons applying for services as well as other factors, many organizations have been caught in a time-consuming, bureaucratic gridlock. When completing the application process, checking details and being diligent and attentive is key.

Before starting the process of attaining an ORI number, consider whom you will designate as Custodian of Records to oversee, manage, and assume responsibility for handling CORI. (Pages 17-23 of the 26-page application process explain in detail what is required in order to execute the role of Custodian of Records.)

Policies and Procedures

AB 506 also requires youth service organizations to develop and implement policies to ensure proper reporting, and to have two mandated reporters present whenever volunteers are directly supervising minors.

Writing policies and procedures can be something that continually falls to the bottom of the list, especially when the demands of day-to-day ministry seem to take priority. Still, this legislation requires organizations that serve youth to have such a policy.

Church HR Network’s website hosts a four-part video series addressing how to develop a policy suited to your organizational needs, and we highly recommend you work with your team to strategize on how best to formulate your policy.

Make sure that any policy you create is consistent with your actual practices! There are few things worse than being confronted with why you or your ministry are not adhering to your own established policies, especially if that lapse results in harm to another.

The Rule of Two

A particularly confounding phrase within AB 506 is the phrase:

“…to the greatest extent possible, the presence of at least two mandated reporters whenever administrators, employees, or volunteers are in contact with, or supervising, children.”

As ministries move to comply with AB 506, this requirement can cause organizations with small budgets and/or staff to wonder how to manage. Many organizations agree it can be one of the most difficult to meet. According to worshipleader.com, 177,000 small churches average 60 worshipers per Sunday. If you are one of these smaller churches,  having two mandated reporters (i.e., paid employees) supervising every youth activity seems impossible to implement. Navigating compliance without exploiting “to the greatest extent possible” is going to be difficult, but working with your staff and volunteers to develop solutions that – to the greatest extent possible – truly do protect the children in your care should be the goal.

In conclusion, while all this may seem quite burdensome, remember the underlying purpose is to not only protect children in our care and give them the safety and security they deserve, but to also protect your workers (staff and volunteers) and your ministry from false allegations.

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