Articles on Central Registry

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Articles on Central Registry

Postby Marina » Fri Nov 23, 2007 8:11 pm


Registry changes divisive


Posted on Friday, November 23, 2007

Court-prompted changes in recent months in how the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry is administered have garnered praise from criminal defense attorneys for shoring up accused perpetrators’ rights but have prompted concern among state officials for children’s well being.

Previously, the Department of Human Services placed an individual on the registry, a state-maintained list of people the agency identified as child abusers or neglecters, before the person could appeal.

Now, an individual’s name is added to the registry only after the person has received notice and either didn’t appeal within 30 days or after an appeal hearing has confirmed the department’s determination.

Jeff Rosenzweig, a Little Rock defense attorney, said he welcomed the changes but said the registry needs more improvements to protect the rights of the accused.

Lisa McGee, deputy counsel for county legal operations at the department, said that because of the ruling, it will take longer to get an individual’s name on the registry, meaning more children could be at a greater risk of having contact with a person accused of child neglect or abuse.

Another part of the ruling, McGee said, put the burden on the department to have the child available to testify and be cross-examined at appeal hearings, which some parents refuse to allow. As a result, the department already has lost some appeals, McGee said.

In the past, the department, formerly the Department of Health and Human Services, instead relied on testimony from investigators, medical personnel and others.

The department has appealed the ruling, and attorneys plan to ask the state Court of Appeals in the next few weeks to reverse the rule requiring accusers to be present at appeal hearings. The department is “very upset” with that part of the ruling, McGee said. “We think that’s a higher burden than what you have in the criminal cases,” McGee said. “There are legitimate ways to get in testimony from child victims without having them personally present.” COURT RULING The registry is a tool that childcare providers can use to screen employees. It is not available to the public. There were 55, 549 registry checks requested during the past fiscal year. The changes to the registry were prompted by an April 16 ruling by Benton County Circuit Judge John R. Scott. The case, A. B., a minor vs. Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services, stemmed from an incident that took place some time before October 2003 involving a 12-year-old boy and a 9-year-old boy who “engaged in sexual touching,” court documents show.

On Aug. 16, 2004, the department determined that a report on the 2003 incident to the state’s Child Abuse Hotline was “true.” The department placed the 12-year-old, identified as A. B., on the registry and notified both boys ’ schools, according to court documents.

A. B. ’s parents appealed, and a hearing was held before an administrative law judge in early 2005. Such hearings are closed to the public. Administrative law judges make decisions based on a “preponderance” of the evidence, a lower standard than what is used in criminal courts. The judges are employed by the department.

During the hearing, a Rogers Police Department detective testified about an interview with the 9- year-old. The detective, who was the department’s only witness, wasn’t present for the interview.

The detective testified that A. B. forced the 9-year-old to engage in sexual touching, and the administrative law judge determined that A. B. ’s name would remain on the registry. His name would have stayed on the list until the department determined that he was rehabilitated, according to court documents.

The department didn’t call the police officer who conducted the initial investigation or the 9-yearold to testify, court documents stated.

In his ruling, Scott ordered the department to immediately remove A. B. ’s name from the registry.

The judge’s ruling stated that A. B. ’s constitutional rights were violated in the department’s administrative proceedings because he wasn’t given the opportunity to appeal before his name was placed on the registry and his accuser couldn’t be cross-examined.

Scott’s ruling stated that the department must notify people and give them an opportunity to appeal before their names are placed on the registry.

The part of the ruling the department objects to states, “At minimum, the agency must present its case through witnesses who are subject to cross-examination of the fact. Unless a compelling State interest is demonstrated, the person bringing the accusation against the subject should testify and be available for cross-examination.” On June 18, the department changed how it places individuals on the registry to comply with the first part of the court ruling.

“We understand the ruling,” McGee said. “We’re trying to balance due process with the protection of the kids who have access to offenders.” In the past, the department has notified schools and employers of an abuse or neglect finding against an individual as soon as it made a determination, McGee said.

There’s now a higher burden on the department to ensure an individual’s rights. As a result, the department will analyze whether it should immediately notify schools and employers of an individual who has committed abuse or neglect or wait until that person has had an opportunity to appeal, McGee said.

“We’re going to be much more prudent, I think, than we were before,” McGee said of the decision to notify employers before an appeal. Under state law, the department may notify schools or day cares of an initial report of abuse or neglect before an investigation. The school or day care may then take action to keep the employee from having contact with children at the facility, McGee said. Individuals who are appealing a finding of neglect or abuse still could have contact with children under certain circumstances, she said.

MORE CHANGES URGED Betty Cox said the ruling would’ve kept her name off the registry.

Cox was teaching sixth grade at Berryville Middle School in Carroll County and was placed on the registry in April after several parents complained that she emotionally abused students. She appealed. A hearing set for Sept. 26 was postponed. It hasn’t been rescheduled.

“I will clear my name because I did nothing wrong,” Cox said.

“If I could have appealed this before my name went on the list, I feel sure my name would not be on the list,” she said.

She said accusers should attend appeal hearings.

“If someone is going to accuse someone of something, even if it [the accuser ] is an 11-year-old child, then they need to be held accountable,” Cox said.

Cox described her placement on the registry as “ludicrous.” She said she’s been on medical leave since the spring because of the emotional toll the experience has taken on her.

Rosenzweig, the defense attorney, has represented clients trying to get their names removed from the registry.

He said there must be other improvements to the system that governs the registry, including improved training for child-abuse and neglect investigators. Some investigators, Rosenzweig said, do not have a sufficient understanding of how state law defines child abuse and neglect.

Also, he said, administrative law judges shouldn’t be employed by the Human Services Department because they are essentially working for the prosecutor. However, an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling in January rejected the argument that the department’s employment of administrative law judges denied a man who was placed on the list his due process rights.


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Postby Marina » Tue May 06, 2008 3:56 pm

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Thousands removed from child-abuser list
Tribune staff report
9:52 PM CDT, May 4, 2008

Nick and Judi Brunstein are former foster parents who spent $20,000 in legal fees to clear their names after being accused by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services of child abuse.

But the Belleville couple still lost the three children they hoped to adopt.

The Brunsteins are among more than 3,000 people who, through an appeals process, got their names removed from an official state list of child abusers over a five-year period, according to an investigation by the Belleville News-Democrat.

The paper found that more than 80,000 people were placed on the child abuse list—called the State Central Register—from Jan. 1, 2002, to Aug. 1, 2007.

Of those, 11,473 people appealed. And 3,051 of those who appealed, or about 27 percent, won their appeals and had their names removed from the list or saw their cases tossed out due to lack of evidence.


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Postby Marina » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:04 pm

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Posted on Mon, Jul. 21, 2008

Sex-offender ordinances face challenges
By Jan Hefler

Inquirer Staff Writer

When he was 15 and in foster care, G.H. was accused of wrongly touching a 13-year-old girl. He denied it but was judged a juvenile delinquent and given two years' probation.
Now a college student in Ocean County, he is still dealing with the consequences of Megan's Law and a plethora of other rules that restrict sex offenders after they have served their time.

But a precedent-setting ruling Tuesday by a New Jersey appeals court should make it easier for the Richard Stockton State College student, and others in his situation, to find a place to live.

Identified only as G.H. in court documents, he was classified as a sex offender, under Megan's Law, for fourth-degree sexual contact. For 15 years, he must, among other things, notify police whenever he moves into a community.

Two years ago, when he was a freshman, police gave him 60 days to vacate his dormitory because Galloway Township had just adopted an ordinance barring sex offenders from living near schools, day cares and churches - regardless of the severity of their offenses. The college was deemed a school. He had not committed any other crimes.

G.H. sued, with the help of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, and that led to the ruling last week. A three-member appeals panel struck down the Galloway ordinance and a similar one in Cherry Hill, saying they were trumped by state law. The ruling also invalidates ordinances passed by 115 other New Jersey municipalities that had restricted residency for sex offenders.

Galloway Township, whose case was argued by Demetrios K. Stratis, an attorney with the American Center for Law and Justice, based in Washington, plans an appeal to the state Supreme Court, saying the protection of children from sex offenders is paramount. Cherry Hill officials are weighing an appeal. The high court, however, has discretion over whether to grant review.

The ordinances, adopted over the last five years throughout the state, run the gamut: Some ban sex offenders from living within a half-mile of convenience stores, bowling alleys, beaches, or anywhere children might congregate. Edgewater Park in Burlington County created a buffer zone around cemeteries, according to Legal Services of New Jersey.

Attorneys say a few other states have adopted residency restrictions to varying degrees. Iowa's statute was upheld, but Georgia's was not.

Besides the ACLU lawyers, attorneys with the state Office of the Public Defender, the state Department of the Public Advocate, and Legal Services of New Jersey, which represents indigent clients, supported arguments against the ordinances. They said these ordinances threatened their clients with homelessness, joblessness, and increased risk of repeat offenses.

On the other side of the emotionally charged issue were the N.J. Crime Victims Law Center and municipal officials, who say the state isn't doing enough to protect residents from sex offenders.

In a 42-page opinion, the appeals court found that the ordinances bordered on "vigilantism and harassment" and went far beyond a carefully crafted state law. Megan's Law, the court said, strikes a balance between protecting children from sexual predators and safeguarding the rights of former convicts who are released into society.

The Legislature adopted Megan's Law in 1994 after 7-year-old Megan Kanka was raped and killed by a twice-convicted sex offender who lived on her street in Hamilton Township. Other states soon followed suit, adopting their own versions after the public outcry.

Over the years, these laws have evolved, leading to an Internet registry of the more serious sex offenders, GPS monitoring, and stringent parole conditions that require lifetime supervision and permission to cross state lines or visit places where children might be. Parole officers also were given the responsibility of approving residences.

About five years ago, municipalities began adding layers of restrictions, creating a mosaic of buffer zones that outlined where sex offenders were not permitted to live.

In Franklin Township, Gloucester County, there are 16 categories, including convenience stores and recreation fields, with buffer zones as wide as a half-mile for some sex offenders.

"I've had clients ask me whether they should stop reporting and go underground, or whether they should split up their family and move out of their house where they've lived for years," said Ingrid D. Johnson, a lawyer with Legal Services of New Jersey.

"Some couldn't afford to move and became resigned to the fact that they would just go back to prison because they had no other way to exist," Johnson said. Many of the ordinances carried fines and prison terms if the person wouldn't move.

But Stratis, who at no charge argued Galloway's case on behalf of the nonprofit organization, said the towns just wanted to help parole officers find appropriate places for sex offenders to live.

"Parole officers have many many cases and can't expect to know where children congregate in a township. The town knows, and that's why we are a home-rule state. We set up laws to protect our citizens," he said.

Municipalities adopted their ordinances when they saw the legislators fail to act on a state law that would set up uniform restrictions, Stratis said.

"We believe that if you are a sex offender, you have a high risk of recidivism," Stratis said. "A township should have a right to set up these barriers. . . . The idea is to remove temptation."

But Frank L. Corrado, the attorney whom the ACLU provided to the college student, said parole officers are best equipped to determine the best environment for a sex offender. That normally is "where he's living with family, or one where he can walk to work," he said. Unfortunately, Corrado said, such locations sometimes fall inside a buffer zone.

Two years ago, this happened when a 76-year-old Franklin man who had served time for molesting his two grandchildren wanted to return to his home of four decades and his wife. Police tried to evict him, saying an ordinance barred him from living within 2,500 feet of a beach.

The Public Defender's Office sued, arguing that he was not a threat to strangers and that his family members were already aware of his past and would protect their children. A year ago, the township settled the case, and he was allowed to stay.

Michael Z. Buncher, a deputy public defender, said studies show the ordinances don't work because they create stress that can interfere with a sex offender's rehabilitation. Studies also show that most offenders, if they are going to re-offend, will go at least five miles away so as not to be recognized.

Buncher said the ordinances fail to recognize differences among the sex offenders and their varying risk levels. "They are not a monolithic group of people," he said.

The appeals panel agreed, finding the municipalities had overstepped their bounds and created ordinances that had the effect of denying housing to sex offenders.

"The Legislature did not include residency restrictions in its chosen remedy, but did include a complex system of particularized case-by-case assessment of risk . . . combined with close supervision," the court said.

The court noted that most of Galloway fell into buffer zones and that Cherry Hill had "virtually banished" all sex offenders from within its borders. Only "a desolate field" and a posh neighborhood were outside the township's many buffer zones, the court said.


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Postby Marina » Tue Jul 22, 2008 4:41 pm


State allows sex offenders for day care

Michigan Department of Human Services licensed unsuitable providers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 3:50 p.m.

LANSING (AP) -- A state audit shows Michigan put thousands of children at risk by authorizing sex offenders and other "unsuitable" day care providers between 2003 and 2006.

The audit released Tuesday says the Department of Human Services shouldn't have licensed or registered about 1,900 day work providers.

Auditors say background checks done by the state weren't effective in identifying perpetrators of child abuse or neglect, sex offenders and others.

State officials agree with the audit's recommendations. They say in the audit report that in April 2007, they began running additional background checks after being informed that a main background check program wasn't flagging enough offenders.

A message seeking comment was left with a DHS spokesman.


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Postby Marina » Sat Jul 26, 2008 6:05 pm

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State overlooked 1,900 convicts in day care jobs

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
By Pat Shellenbarger
The Grand Rapids Press

Four people were licensed by the state to operate day care centers and were paid $4,643 by the Michigan Department of Human Services.

The fact that they were guests of another state agency at the time -- the Michigan Department of Corrections -- was overlooked by licensing officials.

The four prison inmates were among 1,900 day care providers who were convicted of crimes, including child abuse, murder and sex offenses, making them unsuitable for such work, said a report released Tuesday by the state Auditor General. Thirty-one were on the state's sex-offender list.

By failing to identify those day care workers, the Department of Human Services placed about 4,600 children at risk of being victimized, the audit said. The auditors were unaware of any children harmed by the convicted day care workers, said Scott Strong, deputy state auditor general.

He noted nine of the audit's 10 findings were "material conditions" requiring immediate action by the DHS, an indication of their seriousness.

"We concluded DHS efforts were not effective in detecting unsuitable individuals and preventing them from providing child day care services," the auditors wrote.

DHS officials agreed with the audit's findings and said they began running additional background checks in April 2007 after being informed the department's single background check wasn't flagging enough offenders.

"We now conduct four background checks in addition to a central registry check," said Lisa Brewer Walraven, director of the DHS Office of Early Education and Care. "The health and safety of children is a high importance to us."

The state terminated day care providers after being alerted by the auditor general, she said. The audit did not look at all licensed day care operators, but only those who participate in the state's Child Development and Care Program, which provides financial assistance to parents enrolled in education and job training classes. That program cost the state $1.1 billion between Oct. 5, 2003, and March 4, 2006, the period covered by the audit.

The 1,900 unsuitable day care workers found by the auditors included 428 convicted of child abuse and neglect, as well as several convicted on drug charges, murder, assault, home invasion, armed robbery and prison escape.


The four who were in prison at the time they received their day care licenses were convicted of homicide, drug possession and receiving and concealing stolen property. They collected a total of $4,643 from the state for day care services, Strong said, raising the possibility they might be charged with fraud.

The audit report did not name any of the convicted day care workers, nor did it identify where the day care centers are located.

DHS employees periodically checked day care license applicants against the State Police's Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) database, but missed many who had criminal records, the audit found.

In some cases, the code the DHS was using for certain crimes was out-of-date and, therefore, failed to detect certain convicted criminals working in day care centers. The DHS also did not obtain criminal backgrounds of others living in homes that provide day care services, the auditors said

State auditors came up with the 1,900 convicted criminals missed by the DHS by checking those same applicants against the state's sex offender registry and the state Corrections Department's online list of prison inmates and parolees under state supervision.

DHS employees should have been able to run those same computer checks, since all that information is available on the Internet, said Jack Kresnak, CEO of Michigan's Children, a nonprofit advocacy group.

"The risk that was there is unacceptable," he said. "They should be held accountable for this.

"I'm upset, but I'm not surprised," he said, noting the Corrections Department is eating up an increasing share of the state's budget and taking away money from other agencies, including DHS.

"We can't protect kids, because we're spending money on prisons," Kresnak said, a cycle that is apt to repeat as the children who are victims of crime are more likely to become convicted criminals themselves.


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Postby Marina » Fri Feb 20, 2009 10:01 pm ... gistry.txt

Bill that addresses abuse registry advances
By The Associated Press

CHEYENNE - A legislative committee has endorsed taking away the power of the Department of Family Services director to directly intervene in appeals by people accused of abusing or neglecting others.

House Bill 289 heads to the full Senate after clearing the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The Department of Family Services maintains a registry of people accused of abuse or neglect. Social workers put people on the registry when they believe they have substantiated cases of abuse or neglect against those people.

People may appeal their placement on the registry to the state Office of Administrative Hearings. Right now, however, the Department of Family Services director can unilaterally overturn a successful appeal. Department director Tony Lewis, who supports the bill, told the committee he's done that twice in the past couple of years.

"It doesn't affect a whole lot of cases," he said.

The bill would take that power away from the director. However, Lewis said either his department or the person accused of abuse or neglect would still be able to appeal a decision by the Office of Administrative Hearings to state district court. Lewis didn't object to providing another appeals option after both the department and hearings office determine that abuse or neglect has been substantiated.

"What it does is provide the person who's substantiated against a more level playing field," he said.

Lewis said the registry had a few thousand people on it last time he looked a few years ago. He estimated that a couple of people are added to the registry each month.

He said he registry list includes individuals, such as parents, as well as day care and juvenile detention facilities.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Erin Mercer, R-Gillette, said people are put on the registry for everything from having a dirty house and minor safety problems "clear up to a kid who's in the hospital in a coma."

She said the registry generally isn't open to the public. An exception is background checks for jobs that involve caring for others.

Existing law requires people who are being placed on the registry to be notified and told of their right to appeal. Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, sought to change the bill by requiring more formal notification than regular mail.

"This is something that could change their life, and there's no return receipt requested," he said.

But other committee members said people who are expecting to be put on the registry might refuse to sign when notification is delivered. Burns' amendment didn't pass.

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