States have chosen to balance the competing needs of their mission to protect children with the rights of individuals in a variety of ways. One way in which States balanced their responsibilities to children and the individuals alleged to be perpetrators of abuse or neglect was to place restrictions on which reports were included on their Central Registries, when perpetrator information was included. In addition, States also differed in the purposes for which records may be used and the procedures for access to information, when records are sealed or expunged from the registry, and due process procedures for individuals whose names are placed on the registries. (See table 4-O.)6
All States had policies regarding the maintenance of a Central Registry or some type of record keeping system to track reports of abuse and neglect. Some of the States did not have policy regarding a traditional Central Registry, but rather discussed the use of an automated client database. In the latter cases, the expungement policy was related to the administrative client database rather than the Central Registry.
There were variations in the types of reports being maintained:
- Twenty-three States (45.1%) had policies restricting the Central Registry to substantiated, founded, or indicated reports;
- Fifteen States (29.4%) had policies that included State-specific restrictions;
- Ten States (19.6%) had policies that enabled them to maintain all reports on the Central Registry; and
- Three States (5.9%) did not have policy discussing this issue.
Uses and Access to Reports
State policies also varied in terms of the "uses" permitted for Central Registry data. (Responses were not mutually exclusive.) Forty-three States (84.3%) specified in policy that the Central Registry could be used for internal administrative purposes, such as use of prior reports in risk assessment, use by multidisciplinary or fatality review teams in the course of their duties, production of statistical or audit reports, and program planning. Forty-four States (86.3%) specified the Central Registry was used for background employment and licensing checks.
In 37 States (72.5%), the Central Registry could be used for information sharing, including provision of information to other Federal, State, or local governmental or private entities, (e.g. tribes, law enforcement, schools, health care practitioners or facilities, and legislators) when their child protection responsibilities necessitated such information. Information also could be shared with researchers with appropriate safeguards to confidentiality. Fourteen States (27.5%) specified other uses including research on trends, identifying prior victims, and background checks on volunteers.
Forty-five States (88.2%) had explicit expungement policies. Expungement policy regarding reports included considerations of the disposition of the report, whether services were provided, whether additional reports were made and substantiated, and the age of the child.
Forty-five States (88.2%) had explicit expungement policies. The time of expungement of unsubstantiated reports from a Central Registry ranged from "promptly" or "forthwith" to 5 years. Some States specified longer timeframes and maintained records with no perpetrator information attached or in a separate data system. In others cases, these States appeared to make a distinction between unsubstantiated reports and reports where clearly no child abuse or neglect occurred, such as those defined as frivolous or bad faith reports. Policy on founded or substantiated reports often included a timeframe for restricting access, sealing, and expunging the report. In many States, expungement of founded reports was stipulated to take place after the child's 18th birthday.
Forty-five States (88.2%) included information on due process for persons identified as perpetrators. Most of the appeal processes were stipulated to occur within the CPS agency, either through a review by a high-level administrator or a fair hearing conducted by a hearing officer appointed by CPS.
Twenty-one States (41.2%) stipulated that the alleged perpetrator must be notified either before or after his or her name is placed on the registry. Examples of notification timeframes include:
- Requirement that the alleged perpetrator be notified one day after a report is filed;
- Notification within 10 days of whether or not an investigation has been conducted;
- Notification within 30 days of finding;
- Notification 30 days before the alleged perpetrator's name is placed on Central Registry; and
- Notification of the alleged perpetrator within 90 days.
Policy also covered sending the perpetrator information on the appeal process and the timeline for appeal.