Assembly Bill 189, which would allow Autism service providers and professionals to be mandated reporters of child abuse, passed the California Senate on Tuesday.
AB 189 will also follow the current penal code. This means that if a mandated reporter of child abuse doesn’t report abuse or neglect, they can face fines and imprisonment.
Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles), who introduced the bill, backed the bill because of the greater protections it gives children and because of recent confusion on who can or cannot report child abuse in situations with autistic children, as some service providers did not fit the criteria on who had to report by law.
“Including qualified autism professionals as mandated reporters reduces confusion among the autism provider types as to who is a mandated reporter,” stated Assemblywoman Dove earlier this year. “By clarifying that all autism service providers and paraprofessionals are mandated reporters, more children will be protected from continued abuse.”
AB 189 has enjoyed near universal bipartisan support. During the Senate vote on Tuesday it passed 40-0, and during previous votes in committees it also passed unopposed.
As a tweet by Assemblywoman Kamlager-Dove pointed out, support of the bill has been coming from the fact that autistic children are more than twice as likely to be abused, but did not get the same protections.
Children w/ #autism are at higher risk of abuse than their peers. My bill, #AB189, requiring autism service providers to report suspected child abuse passed out of the Committee on Public Safety unopposed and is moving on in the CA Legislaturehttps://t.co/QhusO1Jsok
— Sydney Kamlager (@AsmKamlagerDove) February 27, 2019
The Globe reached out to the core of supporters of AB 189, Autistic service workers, about the bill. “It was a big lapse,” said childcare worker Jennifer Wolfe. “It can be hard to gauge how some autistic children react. Not everyone who can report abuse can see abuse on a child on the autistic spectrum, because of how the child responds to it. Where someone who specializes in autism can see something, others may not. This fixes that.”
“And it makes us responsible too, so we’ll need to report anything by law. It’s a good day.” she added.
Opposition to the bill has been largely non-existent. A behavior analyst who works with autistic children, Laura Worth, pointed out why. “This is a bill with nothing negative in it. It supports and protects vulnerable kids at really no extra cost. That’s why everyone has been for this.”
AB 189 is expected to be signed into law by the Governor soon.