AB 506 -- You cannot avoid it!

AB 506 is a new state law that affects all Christian organizations working with children under age 18

Max H Herr

6/27/20224 min read

There are no "work-arounds" to compliance with AB 506

Churches have been too slow in complying with the new mandatory responsibilities Effective January 1, 2022, all churches in California that sponsor any form of “youth service organization” within their ministries, which most likely includes Sunday School in addition to more recognizable ministries such as AWANA, Vacation Bible School, and youth sports league participation, must now adhere to a new three‐prong “Standard of Care” which includes training their employees who are either mandated reporters (pastors, church administrators,youth and/or children’s ministers) or employees and volunteers who have direct contact with or supervisory control over children under age 18 (nursery workers, Sunday School teachers, children’s choir directors, children’s church workers, youth sports team personnel . . . the list is virtually endless) in the topics of child sexual abuse and general child abuse and neglect.

CMCC’s child sexual abuse prevention partner, the MinistrySafe organization, has prepared an extensive “White Paper” detailing AB 506 responsibilities and implementation. These new requirements are imposed on all “youth service organizations” in California as a result of the passage and signing into law of AB 506. Send us an email or call for a free copy of the MinistrySafe “White Paper” on AB 506.

The second prong of the Standard of Care responsibilities is the requirement to have each of these persons fingerprinted via Live Scan as a type of background check. The requirement for Live Scan fingerprint checks will mean that EVERY church must 1) apply to become an “Applicant Agency” (there is a $79 application fee) and obtain the “ORI” number necessary for submitting fingerprints to the Department of Justice (DOJ), 2) set up an optional account to pay any state fees ($32 for employees, $0 for volunteers), 3) at least one person in each church must become the “Custodian of Records” who will receive the fingerprint check results from the DOJ to 4) a “secure” email server (a dedicated computer with something more than “gmail” or “yahoo mail”) and 5) be responsible for their confidential storage and eventual destruction – and that person will have to submit his or her own Live Scan fingerprints (this will cost $79) after the church’s application for the ORI is approved.

On top of the state’s fee to perform each fingerprint check, each employee and volunteer will have to pay a separate “rolling fee” to the Live Scan vendor who submits the digital fingerprint images. That fee can vary from as little as $5 to as much as $30 (if a church does not set up a DOJ payment account, any DOJ Live Scan fee will have to be paid to the vendor at the time of rolling, and volunteers could inadvertently be charged $32). By law, churches must reimburse their employees for all Live Scan expenses, and would ordinarily be expected to also reimburse their volunteers for any expenses.

Because of the Live Scan limitations, many churches will need to implement a more thorough method of “screening” employees and volunteers than they have been using in the past. Although nationwide fingerprint checks might “hit” on about one‐in‐ten child sexual abusers, the AB 506 legislation limits the fact‐finding of the Live Scan fingerprint check to California criminal convictions only, so this requirement itself is not as beneficial to the church as the state legislature might have believed when it wrote and passed the new law, which is why we strongly recommend adopting the MinistrySafe Skillful Screening Process to vet staff and volunteers because it has been long‐proved to be a highly valuable tool. And nationwide offender registry background checks will remain an additional "best practice."

Finally, as the third prong of the Standard of Care, if they don’t already have them as they should, churches must adopt, implement, and continually monitor written policies and procedures covering the subjects of child abuse and neglect and reporting requirements. AB 506 also empowers insurance companies to "review" their insureds' compliance with all aspects of the new law prior to issuing or renewing liability insurance policies. Although no insurer has yet to announce that it will non-renew existing policies in 2022, it is generally believed that sometime in 2023, perhaps as early as January 1, insurance companies will begin requiring proof of total compliance with AB 506 before they will renew a church's liability insurance policy or write a new policy. This means churches will have to document that all mandated reporters and child-facing staff and volunteers have been Live Scan background checked, properly trained, and that all necessary policies and procedures have been written, implemented, and are being monitored. No church can operate safely without General Liability insurance!

With the exception of Live Scan fingerprinting, the mandates of AB 506 are all part of the “due diligence” that CMCC has been recommending since late 2017 when we formed our partnership with the MinistrySafe organization. The five‐part Child Safety System includes child sexual abuse awareness training, skillful screening of employees and volunteers, criminal background checks, the creation of appropriate policies and procedures, and a proper program of oversight over all these functions and the appropriate record‐keeping responsibilities. MinistrySafe has added California-compliant training on general child abuse and neglect to its standard Child Sexual Abuse Awareness and Prevention training.

For more information on how to achieve full compliance with AB 506, enrolling in the MinistrySafe Child Safety System (and the 50% discount on first-year enrollment fee), how to apply to become an “Applicant Agency” and to obtain an ORI submitter number from the DOJ,

Need answers to your questions? Need help with AB 506 compliance? We’re here for you . . . 24/7.

Call 909.618.4841 or send an email to max@churchandministrycompliance.org