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Child Abuse and Neglect State Statutes Series, Issue Paper: Due Process and Central Registries: An Overview of Issues and Perspectives

NCJ Number
Date Published
21 pages
This paper examines the due process and protection issues that arise when a State maintains a central registry that identifies individuals accused of child abuse or neglect, with emphasis on the need to balance the goals of protecting children and safeguarding the rights of alleged perpetrators.
The analysis focuses on the historical background and the various interests involved when child protective service agencies and others have access to child abuse and neglect information maintained on a central registry. It also considers the need to balance interests, the nature of the constitutionally protected due process interest of the alleged perpetrator of child abuse or neglect, and various procedural safeguards offered by Federal and State laws. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act provides the general framework for safeguards. The laws requires that to be eligible for a Federal grant, States must submit State plans that include provisions that require and procedures that facilitate the prompt expungement in unsubstantiated or false cases of any records that are accessible to the general public or are used for purposes of employment or other background checks. However, State child protective services agencies may keep information on unsubstantiated reports in their casework files to assist in future risk and safety assessment. Some States have enacted legislation to protect individuals’ due-process interests, especially where access to the central register information is extended beyond the child protective agency. The analysis concludes that more and more States are likely to enact similar legislation weighing this protection against the government’s interest in serving its primary function and the fiscal and administrative burdens that additional or substitute procedural requirements might entail. Footnotes