Assessing the Feasibility of Creating and Maintaining a National Registry of Child Maltreatment Perpetrators: Research Report. 3.4 DISCUSSION

09/01/2012

Since States vary as to whether they specifically inform persons that they will be included on a data repository as a perpetrator, they may need to consider this issue when participating in a national registry. Currently almost one-half the States would allow individuals to be added to the data repository while the first level review of the maltreatment finding or their inclusion on the repository is being conducted. Twenty-five percent do not allow individuals to be designated on the data repository during the appeal of the designation.

The issue of purpose may influence the interpretation of whether a State should provide data to a national registry, when it cannot control the use of the data that is available. While one can envision that a national system could instill security measures to limit access to a system, it is at the present time almost impossible to envision how the use of the data could also be controlled. For example, if a State wished that data could not be used for employment checks, it could not control a certified agency that had access to the national registry from using data in that manner.

It appears that there will be more legal barriers to the provision of the information if access will be provided to those conducting employment screening of professionals not providing direct early child care services, such as teachers and other professionals. In almost one-half of the States, there may be legal barriers to providing the information that might be used for a criminal investigation.

The considerations regarding provision of information to a national registry hinge, in large part, upon the parameters for access to the national registry. Given current restrictions under State law and policy, as well as variations in practice, clear guidelines on restrictions of access and the process by which legitimate access could be enforced are critical to the willingness of States to provide data to a national registry. Limiting access to certain types of persons and for certain purposes appears to be the area of greatest concern to the States. This has significant implications for the design of a national registry since not only would categories of inquirers and reasons for inquiry be specified, but it would be necessary to address means of confirming the legitimacy of the person making any inquiry prior to States being comfortable with providing data. Recognizing this issue, a number of States reported that they could not determine the benefits of such a system without having additional detailed design specifications.

Most States reported that they anticipated that such a national registry would generate additional inquiries if the requestor found a match to the name being searched. Therefore, existing restrictions on the extent of information, which can be provided, are unlikely to be an inhibitor to providing data to a national registry, since States could still control the provision of such additional information. Indeed, given some areas of commonality, if access is limited, States may be willing to provide more data than solely the name of the perpetrator and types of maltreatments perpetrated.

While expungement appears to be relatively infrequent, nevertheless the participation in a national registry might include not only providing data to a registry but also deleting on a timely basis records that have been expunged from the State repository. This is a serious challenge to maintaining a national registry given that placing the name of a person incorrectly on a national registry might have serious consequences. Almost all States formally recognize the need to expunge data if an appeal is successful. This would pose an additional challenge if a case were successfully appealed after it was uploaded to a national registry or if the State routinely were to upload data on perpetrators regardless of appeal status. The design and implementation of a national registry may require some consistency of processes among all States, at least in terms of which perpetrators would be included on a national registry and how often the data would be updated, including expunged records.

Clearly a number of States, and perhaps all States, will have to review their own laws prior to providing data to a national registry. Over 70 percent of the States indicated that existing State law would or may prohibit it from providing data to a national registry. In some instances, it may be necessary for State laws to be revised, depending upon the parameters of a national registry, before a State could provide such data.

Nevertheless, if the parameters of the national registry were clear and the requirements for submitting data reasonable, States have the technical capacity to participate. They would, however, face specific and important challenges to supplying data to a national registry, if the access and use of the data were to exceed the provisions of their State laws.

In the next chapter we discuss the return on investment for supplying data in terms of what might be the benefits and challenges facing States who would use the national registry for inquiring about past perpetrator status.

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