Our survey of state officials revealed that only 9 pieces of data are common to at least two-thirds of states' child abuse registries. Six of these are descriptors of the perpetrator: name, date of birth, sex, race/ethnicity, alternative names, and last known address. Fewer States have perpetrators' Social Security numbers and none collect fingerprints. Of the identifying information on perpetrators available in states' databases, current federal law would allow a registry to include only the perpetrator's name.
The other three data elements common to at least two-thirds of states have to do with the prior maltreatment incident: the type of maltreatment substantiated, the date(s) of the previous disposition(s), and the relationship of the perpetrator to the child victim(s). These data elements would be relevant to describe the nature of the maltreatment incident, as permitted in the Adam Walsh Act. However, our survey revealed that only 13 states currently report any child victim information when responding to out-of-state inquiries. Details of the previous maltreatment incident (e.g. narrative descriptions or detailed coding of maltreatment type or severity) are contained in states' databases in a wide variety of ways and it would be difficult to standardize these in a way that would allow consistent reporting in a federal registry. Doing so may require significant changes to most states' existing registries.
The bottom line is that an inquiring state would get back an automated response saying "A person with the same name and birth date as [the subject] was substantiated for X type of maltreatment in Y state on Z date." A registry could potentially also supply the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim in the previous substantiation, though fewer States could or would supply that information. For anything beyond that, the investigator would need to contact the state in which the matching record was found to inquire whether further details were available. In an employment inquiry, if the individual claims that they are not the person listed in the database, the federal database would have no way of distinguishing between that person and anyone else with the same name and birth date. This could be a considerable problem for persons with common names who seek employment working with children and could also be a burden for states if they frequently need to go back to the source of the substantiated report to try and verify whether the reported match is a true positive or a false positive. In analogous criminal background checks, fingerprint identification significantly reduces the potential for false positive results. However, we identified no states that currently include fingerprints in their maltreatment perpetrators registries. Adding such information for these purposes would be time consuming and costly and could only be done prospectively. If fingerprint data were a requirement for submitting data to a national registry it is likely that few states would participate initially.