Download this document in MS Word format
BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

AutoFill Template

H.635

Introduced by   Representatives Lippert of Hinesburg and Pugh of S. Burlington

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Human services; child welfare services; reporting abuse of children

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to:  1) establish a differential response system for reports of child abuse and neglect; 2) establish a tiered system for the child abuse and neglect registry; and 3) permit the state to enter into reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions for the purpose of investigating child abuse and neglect.

AN ACT RELATING TO REPORTS OF CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  33 V.S.A. chapter 49, subchapter 2 is amended to read:

Subchapter 2.  Reporting Abuse of Children

§ 4911.  Purpose

The purpose of this subchapter is to:

(1)  protect Protect children whose health and welfare may be adversely affected through abuse or neglect; .

(2)  strengthen Strengthen the family and make the home safe for children whenever possible by enhancing the parental capacity for good child care; .

(3)  provide Provide a temporary or permanent nurturing and safe environment for children when necessary; and for these purposes require the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect, an assessment or investigation of such reports and provision of services, when needed, to such child and family.

(4)  Establish a range of responses to child abuse and neglect that strikes the appropriate balance between the need to protect children and the potential employment consequences of a registry record for persons who are substantiated for child abuse and neglect.

§ 4912.  Definitions

As used in this subchapter:

(1)  “Child” means an individual under the age of majority.

(2)  An “abused or neglected child” means a child whose physical health, psychological growth and development or welfare is harmed or is at substantial risk of harm by the acts or omissions of his or her parent or other person responsible for the child’s welfare.  An “abused or neglected child” also means a child who is sexually abused or at substantial risk of sexual abuse by any person.

(3)  “Harm” can occur by:

(A)  Physical injury or emotional maltreatment;

(B)  Failure to supply the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, or health care.  For the purposes of this subchapter, “adequate health care” includes any medical or nonmedical remedial health care permitted or authorized under state law.  Notwithstanding that a child might be found to be without proper parental care under chapter 55 of Title 33, a parent or other person responsible for a child’s care legitimately practicing his or her religious beliefs who thereby does not provide specified medical treatment for a child shall not be considered neglectful for that reason alone; or

(C)  Abandonment of the child.

(4)  “Risk of harm” means a significant danger that a child will suffer serious harm other than by accidental means, which harm would be likely to cause physical injury, neglect, emotional maltreatment or sexual abuse.

(5)  “A person responsible for a child’s welfare” includes the child’s parent; guardian; foster parent; any other adult residing in the child’s home who serves in a parental role; an employee of a public or private residential home, institution or agency; or other person responsible for the child’s welfare while in a residential, educational, or child care setting, including any staff person.

(6)  “Physical injury” means death, or permanent or temporary disfigurement or impairment of any bodily organ or function by other than accidental means.

(7)  “Emotional maltreatment” means a pattern of malicious behavior which results in impaired psychological growth and development.

(8)  “Sexual abuse” consists of any act or acts by any person involving sexual molestation or exploitation of a child including but not limited to incest, prostitution, rape, sodomy, or any lewd and lascivious conduct involving a child.  Sexual abuse also includes the aiding, abetting, counseling, hiring, or procuring of a child to perform or participate in any photograph, motion picture, exhibition, show, representation, or other presentation which, in whole or in part, depicts a sexual conduct, sexual excitement or sadomasochistic abuse involving a child.

(9)  “Multi‑disciplinary team” means a group of professionals, paraprofessionals and other appropriate individuals, empanelled by the commissioner of social and rehabilitation services under this chapter, for the purpose of assisting in the identification and investigation review of cases of child abuse and neglect, coordinating treatment services for abused and neglected children and their families and promoting child abuse prevention.

(10)  “Substantiated report” means that the commissioner or the commissioner’s designee has determined after investigation that a report is based upon accurate and reliable information that would lead a reasonable person to believe that the child has been abused or neglected.

(11)  [Repealed.]

(12)  “Member of the clergy” means a priest, rabbi, clergy member, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, accredited Christian Science practitioner, person performing official duties on behalf of a church or religious body that are recognized as the duties of a priest, rabbi, clergy, nun, brother, ordained or licensed minister, leader of any church or religious body, or accredited Christian Science practitioner. 

(13)  “Redacted investigation file” means the intake report, the investigation activities summary, and case determination report that are amended in accordance with confidentiality requirements set forth in subsection 4913(d) of this title.

(14)  “Child abuse and neglect registry” means a record of all investigations that have resulted in a substantiated report on or after January 1, 1992.

(15)  “Registry record” means an entry in the child abuse and neglect registry that consists of the name of an individual substantiated for child abuse or neglect, the date of the finding, the nature of the finding, and at least one other personal identifier, other than a name, listed in order to avoid the possibility of misidentification.

(16)  “Investigation” means the systematic gathering of information in response to a report of child abuse or neglect to determine whether the abuse or neglect has occurred and, if so, the appropriate response.  An investigation shall result in a formal determination as to whether the reported abuse or neglect has occurred.

(17)  “Assessment” means a response to a report of abuse or neglect that focuses on the identification of the strengths and support needs of the child and the family, and any services they may require to improve or restore their

well-being and to reduce the risk of future harm.  The child and family assessment does not result in a formal determination as to whether the reported abuse or neglect has occurred.

§ 4913.  SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT; REMEDIAL

               ACTION

(a)  Any physician, surgeon, osteopath, chiropractor, or physician’s assistant licensed, certified, or registered under the provisions of Title 26, any resident physician, intern, or any hospital administrator in any hospital in this state, whether or not so registered, and any registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, medical examiner, emergency medical personnel as defined in 24 V.S.A.

§ 2651(6), dentist, psychologist, pharmacist, any other health care provider, school superintendent, school teacher, paraeducator, school librarian, child care worker, school principal, school guidance counselor, mental health professional, social worker, probation officer, police officer, camp owner, camp administrator, camp counselor, or member of the clergy who has reasonable cause to believe that any child has been abused or neglected shall report or cause a report to be made in accordance with the provisions of section 4914 of this title within 24 hours.  As used in this subsection, “camp” includes any residential or nonresidential recreational program.

(b)  Any other concerned person not listed in subsection (a) of this section who has reasonable cause to believe that any child has been abused or neglected may report or cause a report to be made in accordance with the provisions of section 4914 of this title.

(c)(1)  Any person enumerated in subsection (a) or (b) of this section, other than a person suspected of child abuse, who in good faith makes a report to the department of social and rehabilitation services shall be immune from any civil or criminal liability which might otherwise be incurred or imposed as a result of making a report. 

(2)  An employer or supervisor shall not discharge, demote, transfer, reduce pay, benefits, or work privileges, prepare a negative work performance evaluation, or take any other action detrimental to any employee because that employee filed a good faith report in accordance with the provisions of this subchapter.  Any person making a report under this subchapter shall have a civil cause of action for appropriate compensatory and punitive damages against any person who causes detrimental changes in the employment status of the reporting party by reason of his or her making a report.

(d)  The name of and any identifying information about either the person making the report or any person mentioned in the report shall be confidential unless:

(1)  the person making the report specifically allows disclosure or unless;

(2)  a human services board proceeding or a judicial proceeding results therefrom or unless;

(3)  a court, after a hearing, finds probable cause to believe that the report was not made in good faith and orders the department to make the name of the reporter available; or

(4)  a review has been requested pursuant to section 4916a of this title and the department has determined that identifying information can be provided without compromising the safety of the reporter or the persons mentioned in the report.

(e)(1)  A person who violates subsection (a) of this section shall be fined not more than $500.00.

(2)  A person who violates subsection (a) of this section with the intent to conceal abuse or neglect of a child shall be imprisoned not more than six months or fined not more than $1,000.00, or both.

(3)  This section shall not be construed to prohibit a prosecution under any other provision of law.

(f)  Except as provided in subsection (g) of this section, a person may not refuse to make a report required by this section on the grounds that making the report would violate a privilege or disclose a confidential communication.

(g)  A member of the clergy shall not be required to make a report under this section if the report would be based upon information received in a communication which is:

(1)  made to a member of the clergy acting in his or her capacity as spiritual advisor;

(2)  intended by the parties to be confidential at the time the communication is made;

(3)  intended by the communicant to be an act of contrition or a matter of conscience; and

(4)  required to be confidential by religious law, doctrine, or tenet.

(h)   When a member of the clergy receives information about abuse or neglect of a child in a manner other than as described in subsection (g) of this section, he or she is required to report on the basis of that information even though he or she may have also received a report of abuse or neglect about the same person or incident in the manner described in subsection (g) of this section. 

§ 4914.  NATURE AND CONTENT OF REPORT; TO WHOM MADE

A report shall be made orally or in writing to the commissioner for children and families or designee.  The commissioner or designee shall request the reporter to follow the oral report with a written report, unless the reporter is anonymous.  Reports shall contain the name and address or other contact information of the reporter as well as the names and addresses of the child and the parents or other persons responsible for the child’s care, if known; the age of the child; the nature and extent of the child’s injuries together with any evidence of previous abuse and neglect of the child or the child’s siblings; and any other information that the reporter believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injuries or reasons for the neglect as well as in protecting the child and assisting the family.  If a report of child abuse or neglect involves the acts or omissions of the commissioner for children and families or employees of that department, then the report shall be directed to the secretary of the agency of human services who shall cause the report to be investigated by other appropriate agency staff other than staff of the department for children and families.  If the report is substantiated, services shall be offered to the child and to his or her family or caretaker according to the requirements of section 4915 4915b of this title.

§ 4915.  ASSESSMENT AND INVESTIGATION; REMEDIAL ACTION

(a)  The department shall respond to reports of alleged neglect or abuse that occurred in Vermont and may also respond to out-of-state conduct when the child is a resident of Vermont.  The department shall begin an assessment or investigation within 72 hours after receipt of a report made pursuant to section 4914 of this title, provided that it has received sufficient information to proceedThe department may collaborate with child protection, law enforcement, and other agencies in Vermont and other jurisdictions when necessary to assess risk to a child and to determine the service needs of the child and family.  The department may enter into reciprocal agreements with other jurisdictions to further the purposes of this subchapter.

(b)  Upon receipt of a report of abuse or neglect, the department shall promptly determine whether it constitutes an allegation of child abuse or neglect as defined in section 4912 of this title.  If the report is accepted as a valid allegation of abuse or neglect, the department shall determine whether to conduct an assessment as provided for in section 4915a of this title or to conduct an investigation as provided for under section 4915b of this title.

(c)  The decision to conduct an assessment shall include consideration of the following factors:

(1)  the nature of the conduct and the extent of injury to the child, if any;

(2)  the accused person’s prior history of child abuse or neglect; and

(3)  the accused person’s willingness to accept responsibility for the conduct and cooperate in remediation. 

(d)  If the information initially available to the department is insufficient to support an assessment, the department shall commence an investigation.  If the department subsequently determines that an investigation is not required, it may commence an assessment and discontinue its investigation.

(e)  The department shall begin an immediate investigation if, at any time during an assessment, it appears that an investigation is appropriate.

(b)  The investigation, to the extent that it is reasonable under the facts and circumstances presented by the particular allegation of child abuse, shall include all of the following:

(1)  A visit to the child's place of residence or place of custody and to the location of the alleged abuse or neglect.

(2)  An interview with, or observance of the child reportedly having been abused or neglected.  If the investigator elects to interview the child, that interview may take place without the approval of the child's parents, guardian, or custodian, provided that it takes place in the presence of a disinterested adult who may be, but shall not be limited to being, a teacher, a member of the clergy, child care provider regulated by the department, or a nurse.

(3)  Determination of the nature, extent, and cause of any abuse or neglect.

(4)  Determination of the identity of the person alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect.

(5)(A)  The identity, by name, of any other children living in the same home environment as the subject child.  The investigator shall consider the physical and emotional condition of those children and may interview them, in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) of this subsection, unless the subject child is the person who is alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect.

(B)  The identity, by name, of any other children who may be at risk if the abuse was alleged to have been committed by someone who is not a member of the subject child's household.  The investigator shall consider the physical and emotional condition of those children and may interview them, in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) of this subsection, unless the subject child is the person who is alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect.

(6)  A determination of the immediate and long-term risk to each child if that child remains in the existing home or other environment.

(7)  Consideration of the environment and the relationship of any children therein to the person alleged to be responsible for the suspected abuse or neglect.

(8)  All other data deemed pertinent.

(c)  For cases investigated by the department, the commissioner may, to the extent that it is reasonable, provide assistance to the child and the child's family.

(d)  The commissioner, designee, or any person required to report under section 4913 or any other person performing an investigation pursuant to section 4914 may take or cause to be taken, photographs of trauma visible on a child who is the subject of a report.  The commissioner or designee may seek consultation with a physician.  If it is indicated as appropriate by the physician, the commissioner or designee may cause the child who is subject of a report to undergo a radiological examination, without the consent of the child's parent or guardian.

(e)  Services may be provided to the child's immediate family whether or not the child remains in the home.

(f)  The department shall report to and request assistance from law enforcement in the following circumstances:

(1)  Investigations of child sexual abuse by an alleged perpetrator age 10 or older.

(2)  Investigations of serious physical abuse or neglect of a child likely to result in criminal charges or requiring emergency medical care.

(3)  Situations potentially dangerous to the child or department worker.

§ 4915a.  Procedures for Assessment

(a)  An assessment shall include an identification of the child’s and family’s strengths and support needs and may include referrals for appropriate evaluations or services that may be required to improve or restore their

well-being.

(b)  When an assessment case is closed, there shall be no finding of abuse or neglect and no indication of the intervention shall be placed in the registry. However, the department shall document the outcome of the assessment.

(c)  The commissioner may develop rules setting out procedures for assessment and service delivery.

§ 4915b.  Procedures for Investigation

(a)  An investigation, to the extent that it is reasonable under the facts and circumstances presented by the particular allegation of child abuse, shall include all of the following:

(1)  A visit to the child’s place of residence or place of custody and to the location of the alleged abuse or neglect.

(2)  An interview with or observation of the child reportedly having been abused or neglected.  If the investigator elects to interview the child, that interview may take place without the approval of the child’s parents, guardian, or custodian, provided that it takes place in the presence of a disinterested adult who may be, but shall not be limited to being, a teacher, a member of the clergy, a child care provider regulated by the department, or a nurse.

(3)  Determination of the nature, extent, and cause of any abuse or neglect.

(4)  Determination of the identity of the person alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect.

(5)(A)  The identity, by name, of any other children living in the same home environment as the subject child.  The investigator shall consider the physical and emotional condition of those children and may interview them, unless the child is the person who is alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect, in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) of this subsection.

(B)  The identity, by name, of any other children who may be at risk if the abuse was alleged to have been committed by someone who is not a member of the subject child’s household.  The investigator shall consider the physical and emotional condition of those children and may interview them, unless the child is the person who is alleged to be responsible for such abuse or neglect, in accordance with the provisions of subdivision (2) of this subsection.

(6)  A determination of the immediate and long‑term risk to each child if that child remains in the existing home or other environment.

(7)  Consideration of the environment and the relationship of any children therein to the person alleged to be responsible for the suspected abuse or neglect.

(8)  All other data deemed pertinent.

(b)  For cases investigated by the department, the commissioner may, to the extent that it is reasonable, provide assistance to the child and the child’s family.

(c)  The commissioner, designee, or any person required to report under section 4913 of this title or any other person performing an assessment or investigation may take or cause to be taken photographs of trauma visible on a child who is the subject of a report.  The commissioner or designee may seek consultation with a physician.  If it is indicated as appropriate by the physician, the commissioner or designee may cause the child who is subject of a report to undergo a radiological examination, without the consent of the child’s parent or guardian. 

(d)  Services may be provided to the child’s immediate family whether the child remains in the home.  

(e)  The department shall report to and request assistance from law enforcement in the following circumstances:

(1)  Investigations of child sexual abuse by an alleged perpetrator age 10 or older.

(2)  Investigations of serious physical abuse or neglect likely to result in criminal charges or requiring emergency medical care.

(3)  Situations potentially dangerous to the child or department worker.

§ 4916.  CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT REGISTRY; RECORDS OF

               ABUSE AND NEGLECT

(a)(1)  The commissioner shall maintain a child abuse and neglect registry which shall contain a record of all investigations that have resulted in a substantiated report on or after January 1, 1992.  Except as provided in subdivision (2) of this subsection, prior to placement of a substantiated report on the registry, the commissioner shall comply with the procedures set forth in section 4916a of this title.

(2)  In cases involving sexual abuse or serious physical abuse of a child, the commissioner in his or her sole judgment may list a substantiated report on the registry pending any administrative review after:

(A)  Reviewing the investigation file.

(B)  Making written findings in consideration of:

(i)  the nature and seriousness of the alleged behavior; and

(ii)  the person's continuing access to children.

(3)  A person alleged to have abused or neglected a child and placed on the registry in accordance with subdivision (2) of this subsection shall be notified of the registry entry, provided with the commissioner's findings, and advised of the right to seek an administrative review in accordance with section 4916a of this title.

(b)  A registry record means an entry in the child abuse and neglect registry that consists of the name of an individual substantiated for child abuse or neglect, the date of the finding, the nature of the finding, and at least one other personal identifier, other than a name, listed in order to avoid the possibility of misidentification.

(c)  The commissioner shall adopt rules to permit use of the registry records as authorized by this subchapter while preserving confidentiality of the registry and other department records related to abuse and neglect.

(d)  Registry records shall only be disclosed to the commissioner or person designated by the commissioner to receive such records, persons assigned by the commissioner to investigate reports, the person reported on, an employer as defined in subsection 4919(e) of this title, or a state's attorney or the attorney general. In no event shall registry records be made available for employment purposes other than as set forth in section 309 or 4919 of this title, or for credit purposes. Any person who violates this subsection shall be fined not more than $500.00. 

(1)  For all substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect made on or after July 1, 2009, the commissioner shall create a registry record that reflects a designated child protection level related to the risk of future harm to children. This system of child protection levels shall be based upon an assessment of the risk the person responsible for the abuse or neglect poses to the safety of children.  The risk assessment shall include consideration of the following factors:

(A)  the nature of the conduct and the extent of injury to the child, if any;
(B)  the accused person’s prior history of child abuse or neglect; and

(C)  the accused person’s response to the investigation and acceptance of responsibility for the conduct.

(2)  The commissioner shall develop rules for the implementation of a system of child protection levels for substantiated cases.  These rules shall be implemented no later than July 1, 2009.

(e)(1)  Verbal Notice. The commissioner or the commissioner's designee shall promptly inform a parent or guardian of the child that a report has been made and substantiated. If a parent or guardian is under investigation for abuse or neglect, such information need only be provided to that parent or guardian in accordance with subsection 4916(d) of this title.

(2)  Written Records. Absent good cause shown by the department, if a report has been substantiated, the commissioner or the commissioner's designee shall provide upon request the redacted investigation file to the child's parent or guardian or, if there is a pending juvenile proceeding or if the child is in custody of the commissioner, to the child's attorney.

(f)(1)  The commissioner or the commissioner's designee may inform the following persons that a report has been substantiated:

(A)  The person responsible for supervising the staff in the child's residential, educational or child care setting.

(B)  Upon request, to the person who made the report under subsection 4913(a) of this title.

(C)  Any person authorized by law to receive such information.

(2)  A person receiving information under this subsection shall not disclose that information to persons who are not involved with the provision of treatment services under section 4915 of this title to the abused or neglected child.

§ 4916a.  CHALLENGING PLACEMENT ON THE REGISTRY

(a)  If an investigation conducted in accordance with section 4915 4915b of this title results in a determination that a report of child abuse or neglect should be substantiated, the department shall notify the person alleged to have abused or neglected a child of the following:

(1)  The nature of the substantiation decision, and that the department intends to enter the record of the substantiation into the registry.

(2)  Who has access to registry information and under what circumstances.

(3)  The implications of having one’s name placed on the registry as it applies to employment, licensure, and registration.

(4)  The right to request a review of the substantiation determination by an administrative reviewer, the time in which the request for review shall be made, and the consequences of not seeking a review.

(5)  The right to receive a copy of the commissioner’s written findings made in accordance with subdivision 4916(a)(2) of this title if applicable.

(b)  Under this section, notice by the department to a person alleged to have abused or neglected a child shall be by first class mail sent to the person’s last known address.

(c)  A person alleged to have abused or neglected a child may seek an administrative review of the department’s intention to place the person’s name on the registry by notifying the department within 14 days of the date the department mailed notice of the right to review in accordance with subsections (a) and (b) of this section.

(d)  The department shall hold an administrative review conference within 14 30 days of receipt of the request for review.  At least seven days prior to the administrative review conference, the department shall provide to the person requesting review a copy of the redacted investigation file, notice of time and place of the conference, and conference procedures, including information that may be submitted and mechanisms for providing testimony.  The department shall also provide to the person those redacted investigation files that relate to prior investigations that the department has relied upon to make its substantiation determination in the case in which a review has been requested.

(e)  At the administrative review conference, the person who requested the review shall be provided with the opportunity to present documentary evidence or other information that supports his or her position and provides information to the reviewer in making the most accurate decision regarding the allegation.  The department shall have the burden of proving that it has accurately and reliably concluded that a reasonable person would believe that the child has been abused or neglected by that person.  Upon the person’s request, the conference may be held by teleconference.

(f)  The department shall establish an administrative case review unit within the department and contract for the services of administrative reviewers.  An administrative reviewer shall be a neutral and independent arbiter who has no prior involvement in the original investigation of the allegation.  The commissioner, in his or her sole and nondelegable discretion, may reconsider any decision made by a reviewer.

(g)  Within seven days of the conference, the administrative reviewer shall:

(1)  reject the department’s substantiation determination;

(2)  accept the department’s substantiation; or

(3)  place the substantiation determination on hold and direct the department to further investigate the case based upon recommendations of the reviewer.

(h)  If the administrative reviewer accepts the department’s substantiation determination, a registry record shall be made immediately. 

(i)  Within seven days of the decision to reject or accept or to place the substantiation on hold in accordance with subsection (g) of this section, the administrative reviewer shall provide notice to the person of his or her decision.  If the administrative reviewer accepts the department’s substantiation, the notice shall advise the person of the right to appeal the administrative reviewer’s decision to the human services board in accordance with section 4916b of this title.

(j)  Persons whose names were placed on the registry on or after January 1, 1992 but prior to July September 1, 2007 shall be entitled to an opportunity to seek an administrative review to challenge the substantiation pursuant to this section.

(k)  If no administrative review is requested, the department’s decision in the case shall be final, and the person shall have no further right of review under this section. The commissioner may grant a waiver and permit such a review upon good cause shown.

§ 4916b.  HUMAN SERVICES BOARD HEARING

(a)  Within 30 days of the date on which the administrative reviewer mailed notice of placement of a report on the registry, the person who is the subject of the substantiation may apply in writing to the human services board for relief. The board shall hold a fair hearing pursuant to 3 V.S.A. § 3091.  When the department receives notice of the appeal, it shall make note in the registry record that the substantiation has been appealed to the board.

(b)(1)  The board shall hold a hearing within 60 days of the receipt of the request for a hearing and shall issue a decision within 30 days of the hearing.

(2)  Priority shall be given to appeals in which there are immediate employment consequences for the person appealing the decision.

(c)  A hearing may be stayed upon request of the petitioner if there is a related case pending in court.

(d)  If no review by the board is requested, the department’s decision in the case shall be final, and the person shall have no further right for review under this section.  The board may grant a waiver and permit such a review upon good cause shown.

§ 4916c.  PETITION FOR EXPUNGEMENT FROM THE REGISTRY

(a)  A person whose name has been listed on the registry for at least seven years may file a written request with the commissioner, seeking a review for the purpose of expunging an individual registry record.  The commissioner shall grant a review upon request.

(b)  The person shall have the burden of proving that a reasonable person would believe that he or she no longer presents a risk to the safety or well‑being of children.  Factors to be considered by the commissioner shall include:

(1)  The nature of the substantiation that resulted in the person’s name being placed on the registry.

(2)  The number of substantiations, if more than one.

(3)  The amount of time that has elapsed since the substantiation.

(4)  The circumstances of the substantiation that would indicate whether a similar incident would be likely to occur.

(5)  Any activities that would reflect upon the person’s changed behavior or circumstances, such as therapy, employment, or education.

(6)  References that attest to the person’s good moral character.

(c)  At the review, the person who requested the review shall be provided with the opportunity to present any evidence or other information, including witnesses, that supports his or her request for expungement.  Upon the person’s request, the review may be held by teleconference.

(d)  A person may seek a review under this section no more than once every 36 months. 

(e)  Within 30 days of the date on which the commissioner mailed notice of the decision pursuant to this section, a person may appeal the decision to the human services board.  The person shall be prohibited from challenging his or her substantiation at such hearing, and the sole issue before the board shall be whether the commissioner abused his or her discretion in denial of the petition for expungement.  The hearing shall be on the record below, and determinations of credibility of witnesses made by the commissioner shall be given deference by the board.

(f)  The department shall take steps to provide reasonable notice to persons on the registry of their right to seek an expungement under this section.  Actual notice is not required.   Reasonable steps may include activities such as the production of an informative fact sheet about the expungement process, posting of such information on the department website, and other approaches typically taken by the department to inform the public about the department’s activities and policies.  The department shall send notice of the expungement process to any person listed on the registry for whom a registry check has been requested.

§ 4916d.  AUTOMATIC EXPUNGEMENT OF REGISTRY RECORDS

Registry entries concerning a person who was substantiated for behavior occurring before the person reached 10 years of age shall be expunged when the person reaches the age of 18, provided that the person has had no additional substantiated registry entries.

§ 4916e.  NOTICE TO MINORS

If the person alleged to have abused or neglected a child is a minor, any notice required pursuant to this subchapter shall be sent:

(1)  to the minor’s parents or guardian; or

(2)   if the child is in the custody of the commissioner, to the social worker assigned to the child by the department and the child’s counsel of record. 


§ 4917.  Multi-disciplinary teams; empaneling

(a)  The commissioner of social and rehabilitation services, or his or her designee may empanel a multi-disciplinary team wherever in the state there may be a probable case of child abuse or neglect which warrants the coordinated use of several professional services.

(b)  The commissioner of social and rehabilitation services, or his or her designee, in conjunction with professionals and community agencies, shall appoint members to the multi-disciplinary teams which may include persons who are trained and engaged in work relating to child abuse or neglect such as medicine, mental health, social work, nursing, day child care, education, law or law enforcement.  Additional persons may be appointed when the services of those persons are appropriate to any particular case.

(c)  The empaneling of a multi-disciplinary team shall be authorized in writing and shall specifically list the members of the team.  This list may be amended from time to time as needed as determined by the commissioner or his or her designee.

§ 4918.  Multi-disciplinary teams; functions; guidelines

(a)  Multi-disciplinary teams shall assist local district offices of the department of social and rehabilitation services in identifying and treating child abuse and or neglect cases.  With respect to any case referred to it, the team shall may assist the district office by providing:

(1)  case diagnosis or identification,;

(2)  a comprehensive treatment plan,; and

(3)  coordination of services pursuant to the treatment plan.

(b)  Multi-disciplinary teams may also provide public informational and educational services to the community about identification, treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect.  It shall also foster communication and cooperation among professionals and organizations in its community, and provide such recommendations or changes in service delivery as it deems necessary.

§ 4919.  DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION REGISTRY RECORDS

(a)  The commissioner or the commissioner’s designee may disclose a registry information record only as set forth in section 4916 of this title or as follows:

(1)  To the state’s attorney or the attorney general;.

(2)  To the owner or operator of a facility regulated by the department for the purpose of informing the owner or operator that employment of a specific individual may result in loss of license or, registration, certification, or authorization as set forth in section 309 of this title;.

(3)  To an employer if such information is used to determine whether to hire or retain a specific individual providing care, custody, treatment, transportation, or supervision of children or vulnerable adults.  The employer may submit a request concerning a current employee, volunteer, grantee, or contractor or an individual to whom the employer has given a conditional offer of a contract, volunteer position, or employment.  The request shall be accompanied by a release signed by the current or prospective employee, volunteer, grantee, or contractor.  If that individual has a record of a substantiated report, the commissioner shall provide the registry record to the employer;.

(4)  To the commissioner of disabilities, aging, and independent living, or the commissioner’s designee, for purposes related to the licensing or registration of facilities regulated by the department of disabilities, aging, and independent living;.

(5)  To the commissioner of health or of disabilities, aging, and independent living, or the commissioner’s designee, for purposes related to oversight and monitoring of persons who are served by or compensated with funds provided by the departments of health and of disabilities, aging, and independent living, including persons to whom a conditional offer of employment has been made;.

(6)  Upon request or when relevant to other states’ adult protective services offices; and.

(7)  Upon request or when relevant to other states’ child protection agencies.

(8)  To the person substantiated for child abuse and neglect who is the subject of the record.

(b)  An employer providing transportation services to children or vulnerable adults may disclose registry records obtained pursuant to subdivision (a)(3) of this section to the agency of human services or its designee for the sole purpose of auditing the records to ensure compliance with this subchapter.  An employer shall provide such records at the request of the agency or its designee.  Only registry records regarding individuals who provide direct transportation services or otherwise have direct contact with children or vulnerable adults may be disclosed.

(c)  Volunteers shall be considered employees for purposes of this section.

(d)  Disclosure of registry records or information or other records used or obtained in the course of providing services to prevent child abuse or neglect or to treat abused or neglected children and their families by one member of a multidisciplinary team to another member of that team shall not subject either member of the multidisciplinary team, individually, or the team as a whole, to any civil or criminal liability notwithstanding any other provision of law.

(e)  “Employer,” as used in this section, means a person or organization who employs or contracts with one or more individuals to care for or provide transportation services to children or vulnerable adults, on either a paid or volunteer basis. 

(f)  In no event shall registry records be made available for employment purposes other than as set forth in this subsection, or for credit purposes.  Any person who violates this subsection shall be fined not more than $500.00.

(g)  Nothing in this subsection shall limit the department’s right to use and disclose information from its records as provided in section 4921 of this chapter.

§ 4920.  Retaliatory action by employer prohibited

An employer or supervisor shall not discharge, demote, transfer, reduce pay, benefits or work privileges, prepare a negative work performance evaluation or take any other action detrimental to any employee because that employee filed a good faith report in accordance with the provisions of this subchapter. Any person making a report under this subchapter shall have a civil cause of action for appropriate compensatory and punitive damages against any person who causes detrimental changes in the employment status of the reporting party by reason of his or her making a report.

§ 4921.  Department’s Records of abuse and neglect

(a)  The commissioner shall maintain all records of all investigations, assessments, reviews, and responses initiated under this subchapter.  The department may use and disclose information from such records in the usual course of its business, including to assess future risk to children, to provide appropriate services to the child or members of the child’s family, or for other legal purposes.

(b)  The commissioner shall promptly inform the parent or guardian of the child that a report has been accepted and the department’s response to the report.

(c)  The redacted investigation file shall be disclosed to:
(1)  the child's parent or guardian, absent good cause shown by the department, provided that the child’s parent or guardian is not the subject of the investigation; and
(2)  the person alleged to have abused or neglected the child, as provided for in subsection 4916a(d) of this title.
(d)  Records of abuse and neglect investigations and assessments shall be disclosed to:
(1)  the court, parties to the juvenile proceeding, and the child’s guardian ad litem if there is a pending juvenile proceeding or if the child is in the custody of the commissioner;
(2)  the commissioner or person designated by the commissioner to receive such records; 
(3)  persons assigned by the commissioner to conduct  investigations;
(4)  law enforcement officers engaged in a joint investigation with the department, an assistant attorney general or a state's attorney;
(5)  other state agencies conducting related investigations; and  
(6)  probate courts involved in guardianship proceedings.

(e)  Records relating to an investigation, assessment or review may be disclosed to:

(1)  service providers working with a person or child who is the subject of the report; and

(2)  other governmental entities for purposes of child protection.

(f)  The commissioner may inform the person who made the report under subsection 4913(a) of this title whether a report has been substantiated.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us