ACT NO. 168
Child welfare services; reporting abuse of children
This act makes changes to the procedures by which the department for children and families responds to reports of child abuse or neglect and lists the names of persons substantiated for abuse or neglect on its child protection registry.
The act outlines procedures for what is termed an assessment response to reports of child abuse or neglect. Prior law required that all reports of child abuse or neglect be investigated, and a formal determination made as to whether the alleged abuse or neglect had occurred. If it was determined that abuse or neglect had occurred, the name of the person responsible was placed on the registry. This was done without regard to the severity of the abuse or neglect. This act allows the Department to use an assessment response in cases of less serious abuse or neglect. The assessment response focuses on identifying a familys strengths and support needs and providing services. The assessment response does not result in a formal determination as to whether the alleged abuse or neglect occurred. It does not result in a persons name being placed on the registry. The act specifies that reports involving certain types of abuse or neglect must result in an investigative response, including conduct involving or resulting in sexual abuse, abandonment, child fatality, and serious physical injury.
The act also directs the department for children and families to develop rules for implementing a tiered child protection registry. Currently, the department lists the names of persons substantiated for abuse or neglect without distinction between the severity of the abuse or neglect. The act creates a tiered system with levels designed to reflect the future risk a person poses to the safety of children. The act charges the department with developing rules to implement the tiered registry. The rules must address the length of time a persons name appears on the registry; the process by which names are expunged from the registry; and the number of tiers in the registry.
The act allows a person who was found to have committed child abuse or neglect when he or she was less than ten years of age to petition for expungement after the persons name has been listed on the registry for three years.
The act adds emergency medical personnel, child care workers, and certain individuals who are employed by a school district to the list of mandated reporters.
The act makes procedural changes to the administrative review process by which a person may challenge the placement of his or her name on the departments registry. A review may be stayed upon request of the person alleged to have committed abuse or neglect if the person is party to a criminal or family court case related to the incident of abuse or neglect.
The act sets out procedures for the department to follow which outline how and when its records should be disclosed.
Finally, the act directs the department to publish an annual report describing information it has gathered regarding the number of reports it received and the number of investigations or assessments it conducted over the prior year.
Effective Date: Various.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street