Cecilia Bobbitt


Los Angeles County is home to the largest child dependency system in the world. A significant portion of the families involved in this system have experienced domestic violence. Because the system is ineffective in responding to domestic violence, families experiencing domestic violence are especially vulnerable to the harms of the family regulation system. The harm that results is the separation of families, leading to irreparable harm and trauma which hurts, rather than helps, families.

This Article’s findings are based on qualitative legal and social science research, including deidentified data from a 2021 UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Families study regarding domestic violence and the child welfare system., Drawing from this research, this Article argues that California’s statutory definition of neglect and mandatory reporting scheme work together to encourage mandated reporters, social workers, and judges to find that exposure to domestic violence, without more, is child neglect. Consequently, despite the protective capacity of non-offending parents, families are ripped apart.

In conclusion, this Article proposes two reforms, (1) a revision of California’s neglect statute and (2) the replacement of mandated reporting with mandated supporting of families that come to the attention of the family regulation system. These reforms seek to alleviate this problem and reduce the unnecessary surveillance of families experiencing domestic violence in the Los Angeles County family regulation system while advocates, scholars, and leaders in Los Angeles County continue to work towards abolition.