Assessing the Feasibility of Creating and Maintaining a National Registry of Child Maltreatment Perpetrators: Research Report. 5.1 PREVALENCE OF INTERSTATE PERPETRATORS

09/01/2012

Results from the prevalence study indicate that up to 1.5 percent (fewer than 8,000) of all substantiated perpetrators in a given year also have been substantiated as perpetrators in other States during the previous 5 years. The percentage differs somewhat from State to State, due in part to fact that some have far more in-migration from other States. Interstate perpetrators did represent somewhat more serious cases in that they were more likely to have had a child removed from the household in their current State of residence, though they were not significantly different from in-State perpetrators in terms of the type of maltreatment.

A national registry would, of course, be used for more than identifying substantiated perpetrators who also had substantiated records of maltreatment in other States. The most common use would undoubtedly be checking for prior substantiations for suspected perpetrators in active maltreatment investigations. Other common occasions for perpetrator information requests to other States include prospective foster and adoptive parent background checks and employment checks for persons working with children, such as childcare. All of these uses would generate far more matches than the national prevalence estimates generated for this report, though precisely how many more is unknown.

While the absolute numbers of persons who would be identified through a national registry may be relatively modest regardless of how it is used, the numbers are not trivial, and a national registry has the added benefit of not being dependent on the person being checked out for information on prior States of residence.

Moreover, the benefits of a national registry lie not only in finding matches to persons being investigated or considered for employment, but also, and perhaps especially, in not finding matches. The workload of staff who must do a background check could be significantly reduced if accurate and comprehensive information was available in a national registry. This would require that the national registry be close to comprehensive in its coverage of States, but the benefits of being able to more quickly and efficiently produce clear background checks would be substantial.

In summary, as the requirement to increase checks for ongoing investigations and also for accepting applications for foster parents, adoptive parents, or child welfare and childcare staff is fully implemented, a national registry might significantly reduce the burden of such checking. It would not reduce the burden, if States need to conduct background checks on both a national registry and through individual communications.

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