Law and Ethics Exam Prep: Mandated Reporting

By Maria Denardo on August 22, 2022

“My client disclosed XYZ. Is that a mandated report?” This is one of the most common questions that I hear among trainees and associates, who often feel anxious about mandated reporting in the earlier stages of their career. It’s an incredibly important subject to know how to navigate legally and ethically in real life, and you can expect the BBS to test your knowledge on it at length. So, let’s start with the basics.

What is a mandated reporter?

All pre-licensed and licensed social workers and therapists are considered mandated reporters. This means that we’re legally obligated to report abuse, neglect, and danger to others that we observe or reasonably suspect while in our professional capacity, i.e., “on the clock.” Reasonable suspicion is a common phrase in our field that you’ll frequently hear while studying for the exam. It basically means if another therapist with similar experience and training heard the same client information and would reasonably suspect abuse or neglect, then so would you.

The three main categories under the overarching umbrella of mandated reporting are child abuse and neglect; dependent and elder abuse and neglect; and danger to others. When you take the CA Law & Ethics exam, mandated reporting will likely show up in a variety of ways.

You could be tested on:

  • Informed consent
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Consensual sex between minors
  • Dependent or elder abuse and neglect
  • Danger to others, including Tarasoff, Duty to Protect, & Duty to Report
  • Various sub-categories of abuse and neglect, like isolation or financial abuse
  • Common physical or behavioral indicators of abuse, exploitation, and neglect
  • Timeline and sequential steps of mandated reporting
  • Assessing versus investigating
  • Reporting while in your professional capacity versus outside professional settings

Now, let’s see how you do with a FREE MFT Law & Ethics exam question.

Mandated Reporting Practice Question:

In an individual therapy session, a client tells their therapist, who is licensed in California, that their sister-in-law recently relapsed with alcohol. According to the client, the sister-in-law “passed out drunk” last week while working as a solo daycare provider in her home in Washington. The children present were between the ages of 1 to 11 years. The client witnessed the incident during a family visit out of state. When the client confronted her sister-in-law, she could “smell the alcohol on her,” even though she denied it. The client maintains that the sister-in-law is still abusing alcohol. Considering legal responsibilities, the therapist:

A. Must investigate details further and process the incident with the client

B. Must report suspected child neglect to Washington CPS immediately

C. Must maintain confidentiality and encourage the client to call local authorities

D. Must report suspected child neglect to California CPS immediately

(Scroll for answer and rationale.)


MFT California Law and Ethics Exam Mandated Reporting








The correct answer is D: Must report suspected child neglect to California CPS immediately. As mandated reporters, we are legally required to report reasonable suspicion of child neglect while working, even when the incident doesn’t involve our client. The CPS phone report must be made immediately, followed by a written report within 36 hours. We can eliminate answer A because it’s not our job to investigate, and we have enough details to warrant suspicion of neglect. Remember, minors do not need to be harmed to make a neglect report, nor does the incident need to occur within California state lines. However, as California pre-licensed or licensed therapists, we would make the report with California CPS, not Washington, which makes answer B wrong. And, finally, answer C is not correct because child neglect is an exception to confidentiality, and the responsibility to report here should not be on the client.

MFT & LCSW Exam Preparation:

How did you do? Do you feel prepared to answer questions about mandated reporting on the exam? Let us know in the comment section below. Regardless of where you landed on this question, TDC offers in-depth study programs for MFT & LCSW CA Law & Ethics, MFT & LCSW CA Clinical, and AMFTRB exams that provide everything you need to successfully PASS your exams with confidence. Plus, each program includes access to coaches who are available to support you every step of the way!

If you’re in need of the 12-hour law and ethics course, we offer a BBS-approved program that will fulfill your continuing education requirement HERE.

Already licensed? Check out our continuing education library that includes a range of courses from Gestalt Therapy to Clinical Supervision.


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