School of Law News
USD School of Law CAI Report: States Continue to Restrict Public Scrutiny of Child Protection Programs
WASHINGTON, DC (April 17, 2012)—A new report by the Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI) at the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law has found that a culture of secrecy in states across the country continues to hamper efforts to stem the tide of child abuse-related fatalities and near-fatalities, estimated to be at least 1700 a year. In many states, this information remains veiled behind restrictive disclosure laws, highlighting the urgent need for systematic reform.
These are the conclusions found in the 2012 “State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S.” report, a state-by-state study of public disclosure laws released today by CAI and First Star, a national organization working to improve the lives of America’s abused and neglected children. The report issues grades from A+ to F based on an analysis of child death and near death disclosure laws and policies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“The death of an abused or neglected child is not only an unspeakable tragedy, it is also a red flag that something has gone terribly wrong with the child welfare system responsible for that child,” said CAI Executive Director and USD School of Law Price Professor of Public Interest Law Robert C. Fellmeth. “Yet, too often these cases are shrouded in secrecy and, as a result, literally fatal flaws in state systems go undetected and opportunities to fix them are missed.”
The advocacy groups also appealed to Congress to pass bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA), to establish a special commission charged with developing a national strategy for reducing the number of child abuse and neglect deaths and near-deaths (S 1984, HR 3653).
“This report underscores the importance of passing bipartisan legislation this year to start getting our arms around a chronic problem nationwide that we know too little about and have struggled to document properly,” said Senator Kerry. “As a prosecutor in Massachusetts, I saw with my own eyes the horrific results of crimes against children and as a father it makes me sick to think that too often abuse ends in death.”
The report gave mediocre to poor grades (C+ or lower) to 20 states, including some of the country’s most populous—California, Texas, New York and New Jersey. Four states earned a D—Colorado, Delaware and New Mexico. Montana received the country’s only F.
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