(Journal Inquirer) Sen. McLachlan criticizes DCF over abuse registry removals

June 17, 2014

Article as it appeared in the Journal Inquirer
GOP senator criticizes DCF over abuse registry removals
By Alex Wood

Journal Inquirer
June 17, 2014

A Republican state senator is criticizing the state Department of Children and Families’ decision to consider applications by people who have been placed on the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Registry to be removed from the registry.

Sen. Michael McLachlan of Danbury said in a statement that DCF submitted proposed legislation on the issue this year and that the General Assembly failed to pass it.

He called DCF’s action “a usurpation of legislative power.”

Ellington lawyer Michael H. Agranoff, a strong supporter of DCF’s new procedure, said it is based on existing law, specifically a provision of the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act that allows state agencies to reverse or modify their final decisions “on a showing of changed conditions.”

The changed conditions would be evidence that the person had been rehabilitated since the finding of child abuse or neglect.

But McLachlan said, “The fact that the legislature has refused to pass legislation implementing such a removal process is a clear indication that there is no legislative support for such a policy.”

Agranoff, whose practice concentrates on representing people in dealings with DCF, has stressed that the abuse and neglect registry is different from the state Sex Offender Registry. He has attributed much of the opposition to creation of a procedure for removal from the abuse and neglect registry to confusion between the two registries.

He said someone can be placed on the abuse and neglect registry for a number of reasons other than sexual abuse of a child.

People are placed on the abuse and neglect registry only after a report is investigated and “substantiated,” which means DCF has found “reasonable cause” to believe that the person is responsible for child abuse or neglect.

Moreover, McLachlan said, a person is placed on the registry only if the DCF commissioner determines that the person responsible “poses a risk to the health, safety, or well-being of children.”

McLachlan said he has sent a letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy criticizing the new DCF procedure and asking whether the governor supports it.

“Unfortunately, child abusers have a high rate of recidivism,” McLachlan said in the letter. “The Child Abuse and Neglect Registry serves an important public safety purpose and should not be substantially weakened through the unilateral action of a state agency with no legislative approval or oversight.”

He said school systems, school bus companies, day care providers, and DCF all use the registry in making hiring decisions. He said DCF also uses the registry in deciding whether to license child care providers and foster parents.

Spokesmen for the governor and DCF couldn’t immediately be reached today.