Federal law requires each state to maintain a “central registry of child abusers,” but the law does not provide any guidelines for how names are to be added to or kept off the list. As a result, most states fail to provide any sort of “due process” to keep the names of innocent parents off that list.
Every year, thousands of innocent parents across the country find themselves listed as “child abusers,” though they have never abused or neglected a child. This is because, in most states, a child services supervisor or even an investigator can put a name on the list with no trial, no hearing, no judgment against the parent, and no system of review.
As one might expect, roughly 75% of those who appeal this listing come out of the appellate hearing—their first hearing on the matter—with a ruling in their favor and their names are removed from the registry.
But what does it say about the accuracy of the registry if 75% of those who appeal never belonged on it in the first place?
These lists are used in background checks; having one’s name listed can be a death sentence to one’s career and livelihood. And that’s to say nothing of one’s dreams of fostering or adopting children or, in some cases, of being reunited with their own children.
In a nation founded on the principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” this lack of due process is an affront to our sense of justice—and it should be!
Thus, we work to pass legislation in the states, like this model presented by the Parental Rights Foundation and adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, to require due process before a name can be added to a child abuse register.
Registers can serve a purpose, but only if they are accurate and reliable. There is no benefit from hurting innocent families. Registries that indiscriminately undermine a parent’s career threaten innocent children (and their families) with poverty and additional hardships.
Together we can protect children by preserving innocent parents’ right to find and retain jobs in their chosen career fields.