Anonymous reporting hurts children. So why would a Nebraska bill extend anonymous reporting even to mandated reporters? Such a move would threaten parental rights and traumatize countless children.
The Numbers Are Grim
Nationally, about 83% of all child abuse or neglect investigations result in a finding of “unfounded” or “unsubstantiated.” This means that, even after the obviously phony calls are weeded out, only one report in six involves actual abuse or neglect.
When the case begins with an anonymous report, the instance of actual abuse or neglect falls to an abysmal 4%. In other words, for each instance where abuse or neglect occurs, 24 innocent families face the trauma of a CPS investigation.
These numbers paint a clear picture: taking anonymous calls draws more innocent families into the trap of child welfare investigations, with no evidence that any more child abusers are discovered in the process.
Misunderstanding the Law
So why would Nebraska want to allow even mandated reporters to call in anonymously?
It turns out the impetus behind the bill was likely a misunderstanding based on false information, one we hope is soon rectified.
Nebraska Legislative Bill 975 would remove from the state’s mandatory reporting law the requirement that the reporter give his or her name and address when giving the report. Further, it would prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services from requiring “such person’s name or address for purposes of making such report.”
In other words, any report in Nebraska could be anonymous, even if it’s the mandated report of a doctor, teacher, or other child-centered professional.
But we’ve learned the author of the bill is not fueling this push personally. Rather, she was advised that the change was necessary for Nebraska to comport with new federal regulations. If Nebraska law doesn’t change, she was told (erroneously), Nebraska would lose a lot of federal dollars.
The Truth Comes Out
Fortunately, friends of parental rights got wind of the bill last week and a number of groups, including our friends at Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), were able to inform lawmakers of the error. Attorney Dan Beasley also spoke to lawmakers on ParentalRights.org’s behalf.
When the bill was heard in committee on Friday, lawyers for the state’s Department of Health and Human Services repeated the false claim that the change is necessary to keep federal funding. But newly informed lawmakers pushed back, questioning and probing the assertion until the lawyers finally conceded that no such requirement exists.
At the conclusion of the hearing, the committee chose not to act on the bill Friday, giving us a chance to talk with lawmakers yet again. While we don’t yet know the final outcome of this one, we do know that the admission that the change is not required, along with the concerns for children expressed by many parents, has opened the eyes of several Nebraska senators.
We will stay on top of L.B. 975 in Nebraska, as well as many bills across the country that threaten parental rights, and we will let you know if they start to move.
(L.B. 975 has other provisions that have nothing to do with family privacy, so an amended version that omits anonymous reporting would not pose a threat to your parental rights. But until the bill is amended, we will continue to track it and keep you informed.)
By working together with grassroots supporters, allied organizations, and even lawmakers themselves, we can protect families from further erosion of their rights such as the misunderstanding behind L.B. 975 might have caused. So please consider investing in the cause today at ParentalRights.org. And continue to follow (and share!) our newsletters, watching for important updates in your state.