We estimate that an operational registry being used routinely by most states for the purposes of investigating child maltreatment reports would need to respond to upwards of one million inquiries per year and would identify a matching record in another state in about 1.5 percent of cases. For comparative purposes, previous research with NCANDS data has shown within-state recurrence rates of 16.7 percent within a similar five year time frame.
We estimate that of the 512,790 unique perpetrators identified by states in 2009, approximately 7,850 nationally had a substantiated maltreatment report within the previous five years in another state. Most of these interstate perpetrators had a single additional substantiation for child neglect (rather than for physical or sexual abuse) in a single additional state. Using records from the 22 States that participated in our study we found that very few perpetrators had more than two matches (345 individuals) or matched records in more than one other state (44 individuals). Results for an operational registry would depend on how many states choose to participate and under what circumstances they choose to make inquiries (e.g. in all cases or in cases where there is some doubt as to what state(s) the perpetrator has lived in). It cannot be known in how many of the matched cases the additional information about the alleged perpetrator's history would make a difference to the current investigation or to the agency's approach to protecting the child.
If a national registry were used for employment inquiries as well as for the purposes of investigating abuse and neglect (as is permitted in some states and which would be permissible under the current statutory language of the Adam Walsh Act) it would need to respond to many more inquiries than the one million estimated – probably somewhere in the range of 4 to 5 million per year. Specifics would depend on the detailed parameters established for who could access the information in the registry and for what purposes. Currently only about one-third of states responding to our key informants survey provide information on child maltreatment perpetrators in response to out-of-state inquiries for employment background checks. Actual numbers vary depending on the type of employer, with the most states (16) willing to respond to employers of child care personnel.