Changes to the Child Abuse Registry Law
Starting July 1, 2011, a new law about child abuse started. The new law changes how child abuse is defined. It also changes the process for appealing a placement on the Child Abuse Registry.
A New Category of Child Abuse:
Iowa defines child abuse by listing several kinds of harm that result from actions a caregiver does or fails to do. Now the law includes "Failure To Provide Adequate Supervision" under a category called "Denial of Critical Care."
The Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) has been using this category to make findings of child abuse and to place people on the Child Abuse Registry. The DHS has done this for a long time even though the law did not allow for that. A recent court case told the DHS that the law did not allow that. This is part of the reason the law changed.
Now, in most instances, if any of the definitions of child abuse are met and a person is found to be responsible for the abuse, the person will be placed on the Registry. Exceptions to this requirement are:
- Physical abuse that is minor, isolated, and unlikely to reoccur
- Failure to provide adequate supervision or proper clothing that is minor, isolated, and unlikely to reoccur
- If one of these exceptions is met, then the abuse could be confirmed but the person's name would not be placed on the Child Abuse Registry. However, if any of the conditions listed below are present, then the abuse would still be listed on the Registry.
- The case was referred for juvenile or criminal court action and a Child In Need of Assistance (CINA) adjudication or criminal conviction for crime involving the child happened.
- Child abuse was already found in the past 18 months.
- The DHS decides that the person responsible for abuse is an ongoing danger to the same child or some other child.
A New Exception For Victims Of Crime:
Before the new law, the DHS sometimes made child abuse findings against victims of domestic abuse. The reason was that some DHS workers believed that victims of abuse were exposing kids to violence. A common example is when a mother was harmed by the father of the child through domestic violence. In some situations, those mothers were placed on the Child Abuse Registry because the children were present while their mother was abused.
Now, the Iowa law says that child abuse should not be found when a victim did not prevent a crime against herself or himself. In the example above about domestic abuse, that mother's name should not be placed on the Registry just because she was not able to stop the child's father from hurting her.
Less Time To Appeal:
The new law states that a person found responsible for child abuse may file an appeal of his or her placement on the Registry within 90 days. This is done by giving a written statement to DHS. The old law used to allow 6 months to appeal. Information about how to appeal is provided on the notice of the decision.
Being placed on the Child Abuse Registry is very serious. It can lead to a loss of a job and professional licenses. It can also damage a person's reputation. It is very important to make an appeal on time. If it is not sent on time, a person won't have a chance to show why the placement on the Registry should be changed.
If you receive a founded child abuse report, you should contact an attorney immediately to get advice about how to appeal. To apply for assistance from Iowa Legal Aid call 1-800-532-1275. Hours for telephone intakes are from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.