Changes to the LAW Regarding Reporting Sex Between Minors in California

By Amanda Rowan on May 10, 2013

NEWS FLASH: The California Law regarding reporting oral and anal sex between minors has changed!

If a 14-year-old client shares with his therapist that his 14-year-old girlfriend gave him oral sex, does the therapist report child abuse or maintain confidentiality?

Prior to April 18, 2013, Social workers and MFTs would be required to report child abuse.  But not anymore...

A legal opinion prepared for the Board of Behavioral Sciences and released Thursday, April 18, 2013 changes the common understanding of a key component of child abuse reporting.

The opinion reads that therapists do not need to report consensual oral or anal sex among minors of similar ages as child abuse, unless there is evidence of "force, undue influence, coercion, or other indicators of abuse."

Both the NASW and CAMFT welcome this change, as both have been pushing for it.

What this means to you

Most people I talk to want to know how this is going to be tested on the California licensing exams. I do not think it will change much. To my knowledge, the BBS never tested the scenario in which a therapist had to report consensual oral or anal sex. Why? Because the people who write the questions (practicing LCSWs and MFTs) were against the previous law so they didn't want to reinforce the concept.

I could see the BBS adding a question related to this issue to make sure you know that it would no longer be reportable -- but even this would take time to get the question into circulation for the exam.

So let’s summarize your reporting responsibilities:

If one person is 13, the other person must be 13 or younger otherwise you’d have to report

If one person is 21 or older, the other person must be 16 or older otherwise you’d have to report

And you NO LONGER have to report anal or oral sex

You can expect at least 1-2 questions on the Standard Written Exam to test your knowledge of your reporting requirements. In our study systems, we include a quiz that covers multiple scenarios.

We will continue to keep you updated on changes to the law that affect your clinical practice.


Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your social work or MFT exam? If you're preparing for a social work exam, check out our Social Work Study Materials. If you're preparing for an MFT exam, check out our MFT Study Materials. Learn more about our offerings at The Therapist Development Center.

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