General Question

jca's avatar

How come it's not public information to find out if someone is a child abuser?

Asked by jca (35976points) April 1st, 2011

How come it’s not public information to find out if someone has any Child Protective reports or convictions for neglect or abuse? I work in the field, for a government agency, and if we look up a child in the system (system that we use) but don’t have a case for, we can get arrested. We received an article about someone getting arrested for this – I don’t have the article any more but the Manager sent it to us as an example of why we should not look up names that we don’t have cases for.

Why is it that as a citizen, I cannot call the responsible public agency and give them the name of someone and find out if that person has a conviction? If someone wants to hire a babysitter, and the babysitter has a child welfare record, the person hiring the sitter has no rights to the information? It makes no sense that the abuser has rights to their privacy but the parent has no rights to find out if the person is a bad candidate for babysitter by having abuse or neglect cases.

(Babysitter was just an example, and needing a babysitter was a hypothetical example of why someone might need the info)

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15 Answers

WestRiverrat's avatar

Because if the information was easy to obtain, there would probably be fewer child abusers alive in this world. LEOs around here fear former victims or their families would exact some red neck justice from the abusers.

geeky_mama's avatar

In my area it IS possible to find that information if the person accused was a foster parent or child care provider.
Even (false) accusations are noted. However, the person has to be a licensed provider. This is why I would never trust the day-to-day care of my children to anyone who is not a licensed provider. It’s very easy (and free!) to do a search of licensed’s all online where I live (in MN).

I find your question very interesting because we DO have a child abuser living nearby – and I know Social Services is involved there because we rescued one of her kids (and because three separate groups of people told me they called Child Protective Services after witnessing her abuse her children). But, because there is no way for private citizens to be tracked…she can still volunteer in a nearby school and she can (and did) volunteer around small children at a nearby church.

I also know of a wonderful child care provider who was FALSELY accused of child abuse (I knew all parties involved and was physically present in her home daycare when the alleged ‘abuse’ took place, so I knew it was actually the accuser who was maliciously making a false claim). my humble opinion I would only want people convicted of abuse to be tracked by some public agency – and it would be nice if at least all organizations for children (e.g. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Sunday Schools, Schools) had a way to access a database with names of those folks to check on abuse convictions—even for private citizens.

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optimisticpessimist's avatar

I know this is slightly different, but I had to have a background check done to work in the schools in Hawaii even though I worked in an office, not directly with the children.

geeky_mama's avatar

@optimisticpessimist – they do background checks on everyone who even wants to volunteer in our schools here…problem is those background checks would never uncover a child abuse accusation of a private individual. And, it will only uncover child abuse convictions that were a felony. (At least our background checks…only look for felony, not misdemeanor charges.)
Not all child abuse is felony child fact, a vast amount of abuse goes on without criminal charges of any kind being filed against the abuser.

For more scary reading see these statistics.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

@geeky_mama That is interesting. I did not inquire about what they were looking for as I have no record.

creative1's avatar

Where I live in RI they do what is called a BCI plus they call any state welfare office if we lived in another state before you can become a licensed foster parent. Even anyone who watches my children meaning even my family had to have this background check before they were allowed to babysit for me. And if I decide to live with somone I have to have them go thru this background check as well. I kind like this idea because it gives you some knowledge you need to know as a parent. Until the adoption is complete of my oldest child I have to continue to do all of these background checks.

Unfortunately the ones who make the laws protect the abusers and not the inocent victims and thats how if you don’t go with a licensed daycare or have someone you know really well watch your children you are putting them at risk. I think all parents if they want to pay for it should be able to ask for a background check to be done for a sitter they want for their child so that you know they will have a greater chance of being safe in their care. If DCYF can do it for the daycares why can’t the parents pay to have it done too?

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Our school does background checks on potential volunteers and field trip chaperones. I haven’t even tried to get information on a person on my own, as I haven’t really had a reason to do so yet. I think it should be public information though, if someone has had some sort of conviction of misconduct in regards to children.

snowberry's avatar

I would think a private investigator would have access to information of this sort. If I REALLY wanted to know if a specific person is a child abuser, I’d go that route.

WasCy's avatar

Actually, there is a website where you can look up information about a geographical area (enter an address and it will give hits for residents with various criminal records in the neighborhood – or at least who once reported from addresses in this neighborhood). The site also has a “sex offender finder” that gives more information (including a photo, if available) for those registered offenders.

It’s understandable that you’re not going to get a lot of detailed information about individuals in open, public searches, because we value privacy very highly. It doesn’t mean that the information isn’t available, just that it’s not “freely” available. And people with the power to abuse that information should be most aware of the potential for abuse, even “well-meaning” or “good intentions” abuse.

jca's avatar

In New York state, the state I work in, the Child Abuse Registry is totally separate from the database of convicted criminals and totally separate from the database of sex offenders. Someone can be a sex offender and a child abuser, but not all child abusers are convicted sex offenders. Someone can be a criminal and a child abuser, but not all child abusers have been convicted of a crime related to their child abuse case. So it’s great we have access to a database of pedophiles and it’s great someone’s crimes are public information, but yet it seems strange that child abuse is not public information. When you get a job working with children, like in a day care center, they will do a check in the State Central Registry to see if you have any cases. However, this information is not available to someone looking for a babysitter on an informal basis.

Judi's avatar

As an apartment manager I have residents sign a release for a criminal background check. I have a PI that runs them for me.

creative1's avatar

Here is what is missing here that most cases of child abuse are not brought into the normal court system and is only in the family court and will be only reported to the states department that is for children. So when the normal background is done it may show nothing but if you look at what is through the states department of children they may have abused children before.

gorillapaws's avatar

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I don’t believe in Scarlet letters and publicly available background searches. IMO either someone is safe to be let loose in public, they are being closely monitored by the courts (with ankle bracelets and home confinement), or they should be in prison. We shouldn’t have people wandering the streets that are a danger to others (and therefore should have no need for branding people as criminals).

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