Sen. McLachlan Objects to New DCF Procedure Giving People Chance to Get Off Child Abuse Registry

June 16, 2014

“The state has no greater responsibility than to keep its children safe.”

Sen. Michael McLachlan (R-Danbury) today wrote to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in response to a recent report indicating that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has unilaterally and without legislative approval implemented a “policy” change allowing people listed on the Child Abuse and Neglect Registry to have their names removed from such registry.

“DCF submitted proposed legislation this year on this very topic,” Sen. McLachlan said. “As a member of the Judiciary Committee who voted against the bill, I strongly object to DCF bypassing the legislature to implement a significant change in policy that undermines child safety and welfare.”

In the (attached) June 16 letter to the governor, Sen. McLachlan argues that:

  • Establishing a process to remove a name from the state’s Child Abuse and Neglect Registry is a substantive change that requires legislative approval.
  • 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.
  • For DCF to unilaterally implement such a policy without legislative approval, or even going through the Regulations Review Committee, is a usurpation of legislative power.

Sen. McLachlan noted that people are placed on Connecticut’s Child Abuse and Neglect Registry only after a report of abuse or neglect is investigated and “substantiated.” The Commissioner may place an individual on the registry only if she determines that (1) abuse or neglect occurred and (2) the person responsible “poses a risk to the health, safety, or well-being of children” Investigations include a home visit. Low risk cases may be referred for community services without placement on the registry.

“I hope you can see why this action is cause for concern, and I would like to know whether you support DCF’s new procedure,” Sen. McLachlan said in the letter. “The state has no greater responsibility than to keep its children safe. Unfortunately, child abusers have a high rate of recidivism. 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.”

Sen. McLachlan added that individuals placed on the registry have the right to multiple administrative reviews and legal appeals, including an internal review, full administrative hearing, and an appeal to the Superior Court. At the hearing, the burden is on the commissioner to prove that the finding of abuse or neglect is supported by the evidence. Thus, individuals appearing on the registry have committed abuse or neglect, pose a risk to the health and safety of children, and have exhausted numerous reviews and appeals.

“The registry serves an important public safety purpose,” Sen. McLachlan said. “It is consulted by school districts, school bus companies, day care providers and even DCF itself to screen potential employees. DCF also is required to check the registry when licensing day care and child care providers and foster parents.”

Sen. McLachlan said the statutory provisions establishing the registry represent a comprehensive legislative policy. Once an investigation has been completed and a finding of abuse or neglect sustained, there is no statutory provision for removing a person’s name from the registry.

“There was bipartisan opposition in the Judiciary Committee, and the House and the Senate chose not to take this bill up for a vote,” Sen. McLachlan said. “However, DCF has now adopted an agency ‘policy’ whereby people who have been placed on the registry can apply for removal. Under this new procedure, DCF officials will decide, apparently with no statutory authority or guidelines, whether to remove people from the registry.”