Iowa's Child Abuse and Dependent Adult Abuse Registries

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded

Because of recent terrible crimes in Iowa, there have been many stories in local and state newspapers about Iowa's Sex Offender Registry. The Sex Offender Registry has the names, photos and details on people convicted of sex crimes. However, the public knows much less about two other Iowa Abuse "registries," the Child Abuse Registry and the Dependent Adult Abuse Registry. Unlike the Sex Offender Registry, a person can end up on Iowa's Child Abuse or Dependent Adult Abuse registries without ever having been charged with - let alone convicted of - any crime. This can cause major problems. For instance, a person could get fired from a job at a daycare, school or nursing home.

Examples of How Someone Might Get on the Registry

Picture yourself at the end of a hectic day. You have one child in the car that you picked up from school who is tired and hungry. You leave him in the car while you run into day care to pick up your infant. You may think it is a harmless act, but this is the kind of event that could cause the  Iowa Department of Human Services ("DHS") to begin an investigation. At the end of that investigation, DHS could determine you have a "founded" child abuse report and place you on the Central Child Abuse Registry.

Or, you might work in a nursing home. You have a family emergency that causes you to be upset. One of the nursing home residents notices and asks you about what is troubling you. You tell the friendly and concerned resident of the nursing home a little about it. She offers to let you use the telephone in her room to make a short long-distance call to check on the family member about whom you are worried. Weeks later, the elderly resident's family member sees a $1.28 charge on the phone bill and prompts a DHS investigation, resulting in a founded dependent adult abuse report. Your name gets placed on the Central Dependent Adult Abuse Registry. The nursing home then fires you because they do not think you can be employed there while on the registry.

How does DHS decide if your actions should place you on the registry?

Both the Child Abuse Registry and the Dependent Adult Abuse Registry are run by DHS.

You can be placed on either registry if there is founded abuse. Abuse is defined differently for child abuse and for dependent adult abuse.

Child Abuse is abuse on a person younger than 18 years old. Iowa defines several types of child abuse including:

  1. Physical abuse
  2. Mental injury
  3. Sexual abuse
  4. Denial of critical care
  5. Child prostitution
  6. Presence of illegal drugs.

Dependent Adult Abuse is abuse by a caretaker of a person who is over age 17 and who cannot care for himself or herself and needs help from other people. This may be an elderly person. It may be someone whose physical or mental health problems prevent the person from caring for himself or herself. There could be a finding of abuse if there is:

  1. Physical Abuse
  2. Sexual Abuse
  3. Denial of critical care such as denial of food, shelter or care
  4. Financial Exploitation.

It may seem clear what these mean, but you might be surprised by what DHS might consider to be "denial of critical care." There is a lot of room to interpret those words.

What can be the result of a DHS investigation?

Child abuse investigations have four possible outcomes:

  1. Founded: Abuse took place and the abuse information will be placed in the child abuse registry.
  2. Confirmed, but not placed on registry: Abuse took place but was minor and isolated and unlikely to reoccur.
  3. Unfounded: It has been determined that abuse did not take place.

There are just two possible outcomes in a dependent adult abuse investigation:

  1. Founded: It has been determined that abuse took place.
  2. Confirmed, but not placed on registry: Abuse took place but was minor and isolated and unlikely to reoccur.
  3. Unfounded: It has been determined that abuse did not take place.

How does it affect me if I am placed on the abuse registry?

Although these are two separate registries, if you have a "founded" abuse report on either one, you may not be able to work with children or dependent adults. With both, you may lose your job if you currently work with those groups of people. If you work with children or dependent adults, or if you apply for a job where you would, then the employer has a right to certain abuse information. They can find out if you are on the abuse registry. They must ask you to sign a release for them to check the registry.

What can I do if I think the DHS decision is wrong?

You can appeal the decision. If you believe you are not guilty of child abuse, you have 90 days from the date of the written notice telling you that the alleged abuse was "founded" to file an appeal. You have six months to appeal a dependent adult abuse decision. You must send a written request for a correction of the child abuse or dependent adult abuse finding to DHS. If you do not send your request for an appeal of the decision within90 days for child abuse or six months for dependent adult abuse, you may not be able to get your name off the registry. Your appeal should say why you think your name should not be on the Registry and that you would like to have a hearing about the decision to put your name on the Registry. Be sure to include the incident number from the DHS decision.

I'm working now in a nursing home and have been placed on one of the abuse registries. Can I keep working?

Your employer can ask DHS to do an evaluation and see if you may still be able to work with children or dependent adults. If DHS says you cannot work with these groups of people, you may appeal this decision. Unlike the 90 days or six months to appeal a founded abuse report, you have just thirty days to appeal a decision by DHS that you may not work with children or dependent adults, or that you may not be the sole supervisor of them. You must send a written appeal and explain why you think you should be able to work with these groups of people. If you do not send an appeal within 30 days, your appeal might not be granted. In order for a late appeal to be granted, you must show what is called "good cause." Good cause means you had a good reason for not filing an appeal on time.

Where can I go for help with an appeal?

Iowa Legal Aid may be able to help people with their appeals. Call 1-800-532-1275 to make an application for assistance.

Last review 2/6/13

This information is not a substitute for legal advice

Last Review and Update: Feb 06, 2013

Contacting the LiveHelp service...