Flaws Found in State Child-Abuse Registries

rockin'robin

Well-Known Member
#1
Push For National Database Barely Progressing

NEW YORK -- Combatting child abuse is a cause with universal support. Yet a push to create a national database of abusers, as authorized by Congress in 2006, is barely progressing as serious flaws come to light in the state-level registries that would be the basis for a national list.

In North Carolina, an appeals court ruled last month that the registry there is unconstitutional because alleged abusers had no chance to defend themselves before being listed.

In New York, a class-action settlement is taking effect on behalf of thousands of people who were improperly denied the chance for a hearing to get removed from the state registry.

And the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case this fall arising from the plight of a California couple whose names remain on that state's registry years after they were cleared of an abuse allegation made by their rebellious teenage daughter.

"Nobody wants to be seen as soft on child abuse -- and that's gotten us where we are," said Carolyn Kubitschek, a New York attorney who has waged several court battles over the registries. "In the state of New York, it is still almost impossible to get off the list."

More than 40 states have the abuse registries -- which are distinct from the better-known registries of convicted sex offenders that every state makes publicly available on the Internet. The abuse lists aren't accessible to the public, but are used by day-care centers, schools, adoption agencies and other entities to screen people who want to adopt, be foster parents or get a job working with children.

Even critics of the registries say they can serve a vital purpose in barring perpetrators of serious abuse from roles where they would interact routinely with children. It's the process underlying many of the registries that has come into question -- and their potential to entangle innocent people as well as wrongdoers.

A person doesn't have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to get listed. Under the general practice in most states, entries are based on a child protection investigator's assertion that the person committed an act of abuse or neglect; hearings or appeals, if granted at all, often come long after the name is entered.

"Anybody can call a child abuse hotline and report abuse -- anybody, including your ex-spouse who hates you, your landlord who's trying to evict you," Kubitschek said.

By law, she said, child protection services must investigate each call -- and their subsequent reports can lead to a person's placement on an abuse registry before they are notified or allowed to defend themselves.

The problems with due process were highlighted last year in an interim report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which has been directed by Congress to assess the feasibility of a national child abuse registry.

"Strong due process protections could necessitate significant changes to CPS investigation processes in some states that could be costly to implement and may discourage participation in a national registry," the HHS report said.

The report also questioned whether a national registry might be plagued by "false positives" affecting innocent people sharing a name with a perpetrator.

The potential problems will be assessed by a new HHS-commissioned study over the next two years, examining the state registries, gauging the states' interest in participating in a national registry, and trying to determine if one is indeed needed.

"Would a national registry in fact be useful to states?" said Barbara Broman, an HHS official who oversaw preparation of the interim report. "We do not know the answer to that question."

Congress authorized a national child abuse registry in 2006 as part of the Adam Walsh Act, named for a Florida boy abducted and murdered in 1981. His father, John Walsh, hosts the TV series "America's Most Wanted."

Among those urging faster progress toward a national registry is Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who says such a list would help track child abusers who cross state lines to avoid detection and offend again in the new location.

"It doesn't make any sense at all that while we try to watch sex offenders like hawks, we let child batterers, who physically batter children, slip through the cracks," he told a news conference last month.

However, Howard Davidson of the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law, said most people on the state registries are accused of neglect, not battering or other physical abuse.

Davidson supports use of the registries to screen potential adoptive or foster parents. But he questions whether they're a suitable tool for employers to vet job applicants because of inconsistencies in the level of proof required to register a name.

A disproportionate number of people on the registries are poor, Davidson said, decreasing their chances of successfully challenging an unfair inclusion on the list.

Even the National Child Abuse Coalition, a major player in Washington in advocating on behalf of abused children, is cautious about the proposed national registry.

Tom Birch, the coalition's legislative counsel, said there are many unanswered questions about the registry's costs and how it would reconcile differences in the states' definitions and handling of child maltreatment.

"Rushing ahead to create a national registry is not the way to go at this point," he said. "It would need to be done right."

While the abuse registries remain out of the spotlight in most states, there have been some notable recent developments. Among them:

California has had a series of cases involving people who were exonerated of abuse allegations yet struggled to get their names off the state's Child Abuse Central Index.

One such case is scheduled to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. Lawyers say it will draw attention to the registry debate even though the issue before the justices involves a dispute over Los Angeles County's position in the case -- not some of the more fundamental issues raised during their nine-year legal battle.

The couple, Craig and Wendy Humphries of Valencia, were arrested in 2001 after their daughter, then 15, accused them of abuse; their younger children were placed in foster care. State courts ruled the allegation was false but they remain on the list of 800,000 names.

In 2008, a federal appeals court found the registry system unconstitutional because there's no way for the innocent to clear their names. The ruling empathized with the Humphries as "living every parent's nightmare."

Esther Boynton, the Humphries' attorney, is frustrated by what she considers a slow, piecemeal government response to the ruling.

"It shows how the defendant is circling the wagons, how hard they will fight," she said. "This goes on and on and on. My clients are living through that."

Boynton knows the ordeal firsthand -- she was placed on the abuse index in 1990 after accidentally splashing her 17-year-old daughter with hot coffee. Only three years later, applying for a volunteer job, did she learn she was on the list; it took two more years of litigation to get removed.

Later, Boynton represented a Bakersfield stockbroker, Scott Whyte, who had been accused of child abuse by an ex-girlfriend in 1986. Whyte avoided contact with their son for years, worried that another allegation might land him in prison, before he was cleared and won a 2007 court ruling upholding his right to challenge the index system.

Despite the vindication, Whyte says being on the registry left lasting scars.

"I will never get over this -- it is still oozing out of me," he said in a telephone interview. "I think I've given up my anger, but I have to continually readdress that. Forgiveness was so difficult."

Boynton says the officials responsible for the registries have good intentions, with the aim of protecting children, but often overlook the harm that can befall people wrongly placed on the lists.

"If they do look, they'll see that parents and children have a shared interest," she said. "Accurate information helps everyone. Inaccurate information can pull people apart unfairly."

North Carolina's Court of Appeals ruled in March that the state's registry process was unconstitutional because it gave suspected abusers no chance to defend themselves prior to being listed. The ruling also required a higher standard of proof before a name could be entered.

Sherry Bradsher, director of the state's Division of Social Services, said the legislature would amend the law to conform with the ruling. Temporarily, she said, the roughly 8,000 names on the list will not be made available -- but their long-term status is uncertain.

The law was challenged by Kelly Holt, whose name had been on the list since 2007 even though he denied abusing his son and was never charged with a crime.

His attorney, Miriam Thompson, said the unanimous appeals court ruling brought tears to her eyes with its eloquent affirmation of the right to due process.

"I have two daughters -- I'm all for protecting them," Thompson said. "But you've got to provide a better system before you accuse someone and put them on that list. That's a punishment, a state action with consequences. Before you do that, you've got to prove it."

In New York State, lawyer Thomas Hoffman is representing thousands of people who may have been improperly denied the chance for a hearing to get removed from the state abuse registry.

Hoffman says somewhere between 17,000 and 25,000 requests for hearings were terminated prematurely by the Office of Children and Family Services between 2003 and 2007 -- in many cases with the request letters simply shredded. Under a proposed class action settlement, the state has agreed to restore their right to a hearing and promised not to allow employers access to their names in the meantime.

However, Hoffman says it may take years for these hearings to be scheduled -- which could leave many of the affected individuals in limbo while prospective employers get no response of any sort to screening requests.

"At least 50 percent of the people who get a hearing are exonerated," Hoffman said. "There are a lot of people who don't belong there, and it's taking too long to exonerate them."

"There's a good purpose for these lists," Hoffman added. "But you could have a divorce case, fighting over custody, the dad puts the kid in car with no seat belt on and the mom calls it in. Suddenly you're on the same list as the pedophile, and the employer doesn't know difference."

Missouri's Supreme Court, in a 2007 ruling, said the state's method of placing people on the abuse registry was unconstitutional because it allowed a listing based solely on a state investigator's determination. Now, a hearing is required beforehand.

Since the ruling, disputes have flared over how many names should be removed from the registry.

"It's a horrible thing to be on this list," said Timothy Belz, the lawyer who won the 2007 case. "You can't get a job as a teacher, a nurse. You can't volunteer for your church's nursery duty.

"If you're a sex offender, your name doesn't go on the list until you're convicted," Belz added. "But if you're a little late getting a kid to the emergency room after he cut his finger, you could be on the list for ever."

Belz attributed the due-process problems to zealous legislators.

"You can't find a lawyer or judge who isn't shocked," he said. "Yet you go to the legislature and it's like pulling teeth to get it changed. All it takes is one kid to get molested, one horrible story, and the legislators just go nuts. The legislature ought to require itself to cool off."


Additional Resources:

California ruling
New York class-action case
N.Carolina ruling
HHS interim report

Flaws Found In State Child-Abuse Registries - National News Story - WJXT Jacksonville
 
#3
Set the personality aside, do you realize what exact is going on?

Lets put this way, for example, I know you and I know where you live, would this be fair if I just call the hotline and report that you abused a child, BAM! your on list! That is, I just made up the story about you and that is all it takes, you then would respond said that you did not do that. These authorities said too bad, I don't care and I won't remove your name off from list. Would that be fair?

I understand that you have negative feelings toward to your parents. This is about innocents who never actually committed such crime never had chance to prove regardless. I would support guilty scumbags being enlisted but I am NOT supporting enlisting innocents without fair trial.

I would like for there to be child abuse registries. I would have my dad and his wife put on the registry for what they did to me as a child.
 

rockin'robin

Well-Known Member
#4
Set the personality aside, do you realize what exact is going on?

Lets put this way, for example, I know you and I know where you live, would this be fair if I just call the hotline and report that you abused a child, BAM! your on list! That is, I just made up the story about you and that is all it takes, you then would respond said that you did not do that. These authorities said too bad, I don't care and I won't remove your name off from list. Would that be fair?

I understand that you have negative feelings toward to your parents. This is about innocents who never actually committed such crime never had chance to prove regardless. I would support guilty scumbags being enlisted but I am NOT supporting enlisting innocents without fair trial.
:gpost:
 

deafskeptic

Active Member
Premium Member
#5
Set the personality aside, do you realize what exact is going on?

Lets put this way, for example, I know you and I know where you live, would this be fair if I just call the hotline and report that you abused a child, BAM! your on list! That is, I just made up the story about you and that is all it takes, you then would respond said that you did not do that. These authorities said too bad, I don't care and I won't remove your name off from list. Would that be fair?

I understand that you have negative feelings toward to your parents. This is about innocents who never actually committed such crime never had chance to prove regardless. I would support guilty scumbags being enlisted but I am NOT supporting enlisting innocents without fair trial.

I would support it but I would want to have the child abuse well documented beyond a reasonable doubt so those who weren't guilty don't end up on it.
 

deafdyke

Well-Known Member
#6
This is about innocents who never actually committed such crime never had chance to prove regardless. I would support guilty scumbags being enlisted but I am NOT supporting enlisting innocents without fair trial.
Exactly. On the other hand how often do fake accusations of child abuse happen?
There are a ton of people who SHOULD be on it..The obvious ones SHOULD be on it. But at the same time if someone got on it due to someone deciding to use the justice system as a "revenge tool" , they should have to be rescreened to see if they could get off of it.
 
#7
Oh plenty!

Suppose my wife and I decided to have bitter divorce, and I want full custody of my kids. I could think of easy way to win divorce and full custody. How? At this time, it is very easy.... I call hotline and report my wife abused my kids, made up the story about what my wife did to my kids...bam! my wife got enlisted... Bingo! Then I go to court, and show document showing that my wife abused, as cause of why divorce and here is proof that my wife abused my kid. Guess what? Judge will grant me full custody immediately and I walk away with my kids.

You think bitter custody battle is not common? Think again!

This is just an example and it is not just limited to divorce.

Exactly. On the other hand how often do fake accusations of child abuse happen?
 
#8
Set the personality aside, do you realize what exact is going on?

Lets put this way, for example, I know you and I know where you live, would this be fair if I just call the hotline and report that you abused a child, BAM! your on list! That is, I just made up the story about you and that is all it takes, you then would respond said that you did not do that. These authorities said too bad, I don't care and I won't remove your name off from list. Would that be fair?

I understand that you have negative feelings toward to your parents. This is about innocents who never actually committed such crime never had chance to prove regardless. I would support guilty scumbags being enlisted but I am NOT supporting enlisting innocents without fair trial.
The abuse inflicted upon me by my dad and his wife were very obvious. I came to school everyday with bruises and scratches on my arms and neck and legs and even my tummy. I have been kicked in the stomach and punched in the face many times. How is that innocent? They were clearly guilty of the child abuse inflicted upon me and my sister!
 

Bear

Active Member
#9
Lucia,

The problem is you are looking at this from your own perspective. What the poster above meant was NOT to say that YOU weren't abused, but there are some that ARENT abusing kids that are on these registeries. I don't think the registeries do anybody any good. IF they did abuse their children and did the time then they should have a right to a life. The sex offender registeries prove again and again how these registeries ruin a life. ONLY employers should have access to this IF there are going to be children involved in the job. ONLY cops and courts should have access to these registeries for protection. I still not believe in ANY registeries being made available to the general public or a job that does not include children.
 
#10
I understand this, and the issue right now has nothing to do with your issue. It is about innocents who gets their name in registry which should NEVER happen in the first place.

Did you realize that I can easily call hotline and report that I saw you Luciadistrubed abuse a child, they will automatically believe my story and got your name on registry. I do not need to prove them anything. I also do not even need to go to court to get your name on the child abuse registry. Would that be fair to you?

Please do not confuse between the guilty ones and the innocent ones.


The abuse inflicted upon me by my dad and his wife were very obvious. I came to school everyday with bruises and scratches on my arms and neck and legs and even my tummy. I have been kicked in the stomach and punched in the face many times. How is that innocent? They were clearly guilty of the child abuse inflicted upon me and my sister!
 
#11
I understand this, and the issue right now has nothing to do with your issue. It is about innocents who gets their name in registry which should NEVER happen in the first place.

Did you realize that I can easily call hotline and report that I saw you Luciadistrubed abuse a child, they will automatically believe my story and got your name on registry. I do not need to prove them anything. I also do not even need to go to court to get your name on the child abuse registry. Would that be fair to you?

Please do not confuse between the guilty ones and the innocent ones.
You missed my point. When I was being abused as a child, I told teachers, interpreters, school psychologists, and CPS was called. CPS investigated my parents, and then declared me a liar and closed my case the same day just because we lived in a nice big home in the suburbs with fancy cars. They never even spoke to me, never asked me any questions, or even look at my body to see whether I had bruises and scratches and/or other injuries. They never even saw me at all as I was in school when the CPS came by the house. Was that fair? No. I had to endure abuse at the hands of my parents for four years until my dad decided to get rid of me. My parents weren't innocent. But nobody believed me except the interpreters and the school psychologist. Therefore, once a parent has been reported, the parent must be investigated, no matter who told CPS what. If it turns out the parent is innocent, the parent can then be cleared of it. Children first.
 
#12
You missed my point. When I was being abused as a child, I told teachers, interpreters, school psychologists, and CPS was called. CPS investigated my parents, and then declared me a liar and closed my case the same day just because we lived in a nice big home in the suburbs with fancy cars. They never even spoke to me, never asked me any questions, or even look at my body to see whether I had bruises and scratches and/or other injuries. They never even saw me at all as I was in school when the CPS came by the house. Was that fair? No. I had to endure abuse at the hands of my parents for four years until my dad decided to get rid of me. My parents weren't innocent. But nobody believed me except the interpreters and the school psychologist. Therefore, once a parent has been reported, the parent must be investigated, no matter who told CPS what. If it turns out the parent is innocent, the parent can then be cleared of it. Children first.
What happened to you is horrific, but the others have a good point. You must look past what happened to you and realize that our system is flawed. Until we fix our system, everybody loses.
 
#13
Lucia,

The problem is you are looking at this from your own perspective. What the poster above meant was NOT to say that YOU weren't abused, but there are some that ARENT abusing kids that are on these registeries. I don't think the registeries do anybody any good. IF they did abuse their children and did the time then they should have a right to a life. The sex offender registeries prove again and again how these registeries ruin a life. ONLY employers should have access to this IF there are going to be children involved in the job. ONLY cops and courts should have access to these registeries for protection. I still not believe in ANY registeries being made available to the general public or a job that does not include children.
Agreed, Bear. The whole purpose should be to protect the children from harm, but I would include that info being available to social workers and counselors. As mandated reporters, we sometimes need to know the history of someone to gauge the seriousness of some behaviors.

We need to keep in mind, as well, that this data is input by human hand, and as long as that is the case, there will be errors. Including information that was never supposed to be released.
 

deafskeptic

Active Member
Premium Member
#14
You missed my point. When I was being abused as a child, I told teachers, interpreters, school psychologists, and CPS was called. CPS investigated my parents, and then declared me a liar and closed my case the same day just because we lived in a nice big home in the suburbs with fancy cars. They never even spoke to me, never asked me any questions, or even look at my body to see whether I had bruises and scratches and/or other injuries. They never even saw me at all as I was in school when the CPS came by the house. Was that fair? No. I had to endure abuse at the hands of my parents for four years until my dad decided to get rid of me. My parents weren't innocent. But nobody believed me except the interpreters and the school psychologist. Therefore, once a parent has been reported, the parent must be investigated, no matter who told CPS what. If it turns out the parent is innocent, the parent can then be cleared of it. Children first.
Just because one lives in a nice home doesn't mean that abuse won't happen to a child. What you went thru was quite horrific. I speak from personal exp but I'm not going go into details here.
 
#15
You still missed my point by thousand miles. I know what you mean, the law was passed in 2006 to make it easier, but WAY WAY WAY too easy. What the law that passed in 2006 should not allow automatically list the name at the day somebody reported.

Yes, the law was meant to fix the problem that you had in the past which is good thing, however BIG loop hole is what? WITHOUT proper investigation, and proper procedure to enlist the accused person on the list. IN other word, the law should have include the filter process to weed out false reports. That is my point that you are missed by a thousand miles.

Please calm down, I got nothing against you and I do agree that these scumbags hurt you should be punished and enlisted. I just changed the font color in your post, That is exact the problem with the 2006 law that is passed, and should have included as well.

DHB

You missed my point. When I was being abused as a child, I told teachers, interpreters, school psychologists, and CPS was called. CPS investigated my parents, and then declared me a liar and closed my case the same day just because we lived in a nice big home in the suburbs with fancy cars. They never even spoke to me, never asked me any questions, or even look at my body to see whether I had bruises and scratches and/or other injuries. They never even saw me at all as I was in school when the CPS came by the house. Was that fair? No. I had to endure abuse at the hands of my parents for four years until my dad decided to get rid of me. My parents weren't innocent. But nobody believed me except the interpreters and the school psychologist. Therefore, once a parent has been reported, the parent must be investigated, no matter who told CPS what. If it turns out the parent is innocent, the parent can then be cleared of it. Children first.
 
#16
That is right, both good and bad people loses which should not happen. It should only apply to bad people not the innocent ones.

What happened to you is horrific, but the others have a good point. You must look past what happened to you and realize that our system is flawed. Until we fix our system, everybody loses.
 
#17
I am a Family Advocate and work with families in Georgia who have been falsely accused of child abuse. False accusation happen far more often than most people think.
 

Bear

Active Member
#18
Not only false accusations are the problem though. Another problem with stuff like this is most of the time, a persons name is added to the list but that is usually all of the information you will find. Take the sex offender registry it will usually list the person's name, photo's, identifying marks, and the tier that they are on as an offender. Rarely does it tell you if their offense involved a child or not or even what they really did. A child abuse registry, could have it uses, however, the abuses possible is just too much for it to really be effective.
 

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