On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee heard the 2015 Child Protection Bill. The bipartisan bill is a result of recommendations from the governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children.
The bill aims to put a child’s needs first, sometimes over the needs of the family when suspected child maltreatment is reported. That means de-emphasizing other factors, such as parental rights or keeping children with their families, communities or cultures.
A focal point of the legislation is to give screeners more tools when making important screening decisions. When a child maltreatment call comes into county social services, a screener determines whether the case should be dismissed or if it should move forward through the county or tribal child protection system. Thus, cases are “screened out” if dismissed or “screened in” if the social worker finds the report credible.
Under current law, screeners are not allowed to consider previous reports about the same child if those reports were screened out. One provision of this bill would repeal that portion of statute to enable information about a screened out report to be kept on record for five years. Information of all reports would be forwarded to law enforcement, even if they didn’t lead to an investigation. The bill would also allow those uninvestigated reports to be considered if future allegations arise.
Other key components of S.F. 4 include:
- Requiring agencies to use the DHS screening guidelines.
- Allowing counties to make modifications to the state screening guidelines, but only with DHS approval.
- Requiring DHS to provide oversight and quality assurance on screening and data recording and to produce an annual report of these reviews.
The bill passed the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing Committee and was sent to the Judiciary Committee to review data privacy implications. (S.F. 4)