Title: When are therapists required to disclose domestic violence, and to whom?
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Are you worried that if you put your kid in therapy that the therapist will have to make a mandated
report to the Department of Children Family Services based on the history of domestic violence
in your family? Well, we're going to talk about that today on tips on teens. My name is Kent Toussaint.
I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize in helping kids, teens, and
families live happier lives. I lead two organizations the group private practice teen therapy
center and the nonprofit 501 C three organization, child and Teen Counseling, both here in
Woodland Hills, California. Every Wednesday at noon, I jump into Facebook Live to answer your
parenting questions. Let's jump into today's. I want to get my son into therapy, but there's
a history of domestic violence in our family. His dad and I are separated. What happens if my
son tells the therapist about domestic violence? Does the therapist have to call the police?
So all therapists in the state of California, whether
00:01:05 Speaker 1
they are licensed or pre licensed, are mandated reporters. What does that mean? So in a nutshell,
if there is reasonable suspicion not proof, not evidence, but reasonable suspicion that there
is sexual abuse or physical abuse or emotional abuse or neglect, then we are mandated by law
to make a report to the Department of Children and Family Services, and then they will go and
investigate the allegations. It is not for therapists to determine what's right or wrong,
just reasonable suspicion. So let's put this in the context of domestic violence. So let's
assume for argument's sake that the domestic violence was between the two parents and the child
was only a witness. That is mandated reporting because it is emotional abuse. It is emotional
abuse for a child to witness his parents physically abusing one another. Now, let's take that
one step further. Let's assume for argument's sake that that child is a victim of the domestic
violence. He's been hit, punched, choked, whatever the physical
00:02:18 Speaker 1
violence is, that's a slam dunk mandated report. And what constitutes physical abuse? Because
in the state of California, you are legally allowed to spank your kids. Whether it's effective
parenting or effective discipline is a whole other story because I don't believe it is. But
you are allowed to spank your kids. What you're not allowed to do is use a closed fist. You're
not allowed to use an object. You're not allowed to leave bruises or marks or scratches of any
kind, anything like that. That would be a mandated report as well. Now, many of you may be thinking,
oh, my gosh, I can't get my kid in therapy. They're going to make a report. And I would caution
you to rethink that, because most of the time and this is my opinion, I do not work for the county.
I do not work for DCFS. I do not speak for the county. This is my own personal opinion based on my
own experience. This is anecdotal. So my experience is when I've made reports, DCFS does not
usually want to take kids out of the home.
00:03:22 Speaker 1
They are so overwhelmed already. They don't want to take more kids out of more homes. They really
don't want to do that unless the abuse is severe. If there is some domestic violence, parents
are slapping each other. Maybe the kid got slapped around a little too much. Maybe he was being
hit with a belt. You can't use objects either. They may decide to take the child out, but more
than likely they're going to say, hey, we mandate therapy for your kid. We mandate therapy for
you. Parenting classes, it's inconvenient, but it helps everyone heal and get the support
they need, which is maybe why you're seeking therapy in the first place. If you wait, if you never
get your kid in therapy, then they have all this unresolved issues that they hopefully don't,
but possibly could pass on to the next generation or in their next relationships. We don't want
to do that. We want to get people help. I think the county generally wants to help. I've heard
horror stories here and there. I've heard the outliers
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again, I think those are outliers most of the time. I think the county just wants to help, make
sure that people are safe. I also think that if it's still going on, that report is going to come
out regardless. Whether it's the therapist, the teacher is going to find out, the neighbor
is going to find out, someone's going to find out. Catch it now before it gets worse. Also, with
mandated reporting, if you tell the therapist, well, we've already had it reported, that therapist
still has to make the report. It doesn't matter if this report has been made ten times. Every
new mandated reporter who comes across one of these instances must make a new report. DCFS will
research it, realize it's the same report they've had five of the times. If there's no new information,
they don't really take new action. Again, that's my experience as a therapist not working for
DCFS. I do not speak for DCFS. That is my anecdotal experience. Anyways, I hope this has been
helpful. I hope this has made it clear
00:05:10 Speaker 1
on what the rules are. I do encourage you to get your kid in therapy, even if that leads to a report.
Hopefully the violence has not been so extreme that they don't have to take kids out of the house.
But if the violence has been that extreme, maybe something needs to happen that's more significant
than just therapy. I don't know. We want to get your kid help. So please reach out, get your kids
some help, get your kids in therapy. The consequences will not be as bad as ignoring it. That's
my question for today. Thank you very much. My name is Kent Toussaint with Teen Therapy Center
and Child and Teen Counseling. If you have a question, you'd like me to answer, go ahead and email
us at email@example.com or direct message right here on Facebook. We love
your questions. Keep them coming. I will see you next Wednesday at noon. Bye. Bye, guys.
What is mandated reporting?
Are you holding back from sending your child to therapy because there’s a history of domestic violence in your home and you’re afraid the therapist will report you? There are a lot reasons why you shouldn’t let that stop you from getting your family the support it needs. But first, who are mandated reporters and what is reportable?
All therapists in the state of California are what’s known as “mandated reporters.” If in the process of therapy there surfaces a reasonable suspicion of sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect, the law mandates the therapist to submit a report to the Department of Children & Family Services (DCFS). This can be true if the child has experienced certain forms of abuse directly, or just witnessed them. It’s important to note that the therapist is not the investigator, the DCFS is.
Get your family the support it needs
If you’re reading this and getting more nervous, watch this video for some reassurance. Most of the time in our experience the DCFS does not want to take kids out of homes unless the abuse is severe. If there is some domestic violence, most likely DCFS will mandate therapy for kids and for parents, or require parenting classes. It’s inconvenient, but it can help everyone heal and get the support they need. Don’t wait on therapy and risk your kid passing on all their issues to the next generation. Get the help you need and check out this week’s Tips On Teens question:
“I want to get my son into therapy but there’s a history of domestic violence in our family. His dad and I are separated. What happens if my son tells the therapist about domestic violence? Does the therapist have to call the police?”
Clinical Director Kent Toussaint answers your parenting questions every Wednesday at 12:00pm in our weekly segment Tips On Teens on Facebook Live. Have questions about parenting kids and teens? Send them to: TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. We love to hear from you!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.