State child welfare officials responding to our survey suggested that the most significant benefit of a functional registry of child maltreatment perpetrators would be to save time on the part of child protective services workers who request maltreatment history information from other states. By providing a single source of that information a registry could potentially provide additional and more timely knowledge of an alleged perpetrator's history that can be used to inform safety assessments and increase children's safety. We caution, however, that these benefits could only be realized if most states participate in a registry so that individual state-to-state inquiries become unnecessary. In addition, we caution that if a national registry includes employment inquiries, the additional workload to states to rule out false positive matches on such inquiries could negate any potential efficiency gain related to investigations.
In our feasibility study, states identified for us the benefits and challenges they identified with respect to participating in a national registry. The most frequent benefits mentioned by the 36 participating states include saving time (mentioned by 25 states), providing more timely knowledge that would be useful in assessing child safety (22 states), improving cross-state accessibility of information (19 states) and simplifying access to information by providing a single source of information on maltreatment histories (19 states). No other benefit was mentioned by more than a handful of states. A fuller discussion of these benefits and challenges may be found in the full description of study results (Appendix 1) as well as in tables 21 and 22 of the supporting tables.
Likely because of agencies' different perspectives, the child welfare officials we surveyed did not report to us potential benefits of a registry to law enforcement. But law enforcement agencies would likely also find benefit in a more complete understanding of the child maltreatment patterns of an individual under investigation or facing prosecution. Such information could also be useful in the sentencing process to provide the court with a more complete picture of an individual's conduct relevant to sentencing.