|Posted:||March 3, 2021 11:52 AM|
|From:||Representative Todd Stephens|
|To:||All House members|
|Subject:||Information Sharing in Child Abuse Investigations|
|I am introducing legislation to bridge an information gap that is currently putting children at unnecessary risk.
Currently, criminal justice agencies are prohibited by the Criminal Record History Information Act from sharing investigative or criminal record history information with any non-criminal justice agencies. Accordingly, our county children and youth agencies, who are not criminal justice agencies but are nonetheless responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect, are barred from obtaining information law enforcement receives regarding these complaints. Ironically, under the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL), the county agencies are directed to work with law enforcement to “cooperate and coordinate, to the fullest extent possible, their efforts to respond to and investigate reports of suspected child abuse.”
Unfortunately, this information gap has serious consequences. In many cases, it leaves children at risk of substantial future harm and in other cases, it subjects them to unnecessary “bureaucratic trauma.” Best practices in childhood trauma dictate that repeated interviews in which a child victim or witness must recount the same information are to be avoided wherever reasonably possible. By the time the police are finished with a criminal investigation, the last thing an abused child needs is yet another unfamiliar person asking the same painful questions all over again. Equally significant is the fact that this prohibition against information sharing hamstrings the process by which experts review child fatalities and near fatalities. These review teams can be extraordinarily useful in helping to prevent future child injuries and death, but their abilities have limited by the fact that they cannot receive critical law enforcement information during their review process.
My legislation will specifically allow law enforcement agencies to share information that is relevant to an allegation of child abuse with the children and youth agency and any child advocacy center or multidisciplinary team that has authority under the CPSL to investigate the allegation or instance of abuse. Several law enforcement and child welfare organizations support this proposal and I would appreciate your support as well.
Please join me in co-sponsoring this important legislation.
Introduced as HB933