California officials are no longer required to report homeless teens to law enforcement thanks to a bill that was signed into law on Wednesday.
The bill, AB 652, aims to change a pattern of homeless teens avoiding shelters, schools and healthcare out of fear they will be reported to child services and forced to return to unsupportive homes. The law will go into effect January 1.
As mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, teachers, social workers and other officials had been compelled to report homeless teens to services. AB 652 eliminates homelessness as a sufficient basis for reporting teens, although they may still be reported if other signs of abuse or neglect are spotted.
“Young people escaping intolerant homes can now begin to get the help they need, so they don’t have to remain homeless -- without ending up in police custody or being returned to unsupportive environments,” Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who introduced the bill, said in a press release.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 46 percent of homeless youth report being physically abused, 38 percent report emotional abuse and 17 percent report sexual abuse by a family or household member. Furthermore, 75 percent of youth runaways are female, and between 20 and 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT.
This bill was among 10 others signed into law on Wednesday protecting homeless and foster youth.
Of the estimated 1.6 million homeless teens in the United States, a staggering 200,000 of them are believed to be living in California.