When the Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (henceforth the Adam Walsh Act), it included in section 633 a requirement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) establish a national registry of child maltreatment perpetrators (often also referred to as a national child abuse registry). The law also required that HHS conduct "a study on the feasibility of establishing data collection standards for a national child abuse and neglect registry with recommendations and findings concerning—
(a) costs and benefits of such data collection standards;
(b) data collection standards currently employed by each State, Indian tribe, or political subdivision of a State;
(c) data collection standards that should be considered to establish a model of promising practices; and
(d) a due process procedure for a national registry."
While no funds have been appropriated for the development of a national registry, the Congress did designate that a portion of FY 2009 funds appropriated for child abuse discretionary activities be used for the feasibility study. This report describes the results of the feasibility study conducted by HHS in response to this directive and fulfills the mandate of the Adam Walsh Act. It follows up on an interim report to the Congress on this topic that was published in May of 2009.
Below we remind readers of the parameters of a national registry of child maltreatment perpetrators as described in the Adam Walsh Act, then briefly recap the interim report, describe the steps taken since the interim report to further assess the feasibility of such a registry, and summarize the findings of the feasibility study. These discussions are followed by conclusions in several key areas. The full research report of the feasibility study appears as Appendix 1, with text more fully explaining the methods and results, and detailed tables. Appendices A through C to the research report provide detailed methodological information on the research study. Appendix D to the research study summarizes the rulings in the many court challenges to state child abuse registry practices that have been brought in the past decade, while Appendix E describes states' existing due process requirements for persons identified as perpetrators. This review of case law provides the background for our conclusions regarding due process needed for a national registry. For readers' convenience, we also include as appendices to this report the relevant text from the Adam Walsh Act describing a national registry of child maltreatment perpetrators (Appendix 2) and the May 2009 Interim Report to the Congress on the Feasibility of a National Child Abuse Registry (Appendix 3).