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treat (or arrange treatment) and monitor service delivery are also commendable. So is the provision that the Director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse (which the bill envisions) will be able to contract with private agencies for services which the state cannot provide directly when a particular child needs special care.
However, the negative aspects of this legislation, in our judgment, outweigh the positive features. The language is much too vague. That is beneficial in certain legislation, of course, but here it would be detrimental. For example, great discretion in deciding to maintain written and "centrally filed" records of reported neglect or abuse cases rests in the Center or the special unit of the Metropolitan Police force. (Sec. 202, page 10, lines 4-6.) Additionally, there are no criteria outlines for deciding whether a family situation is neglectful or abusive although members of the police force's "special unit" will be required to make that determination for all reported cases. (Sec. 202, page 11, line 10-12). Although the interdisciplinary teams which the legislation envisions as serving an abusive or neglectful family are said to consist of a physician, social worker, psychiatrist or psychologist and an attorney (Sec. 101(d)(2), page 4, line 13 and following), the attorney has no mandated obligations as do the other team members (page 5); in fact, his primary obligation is to the Center and its staff, rather than to the families the team serves. (Sec. 101 (e), page 5, lines 21-24). The bill provides that the "rights" of clients coming voluntarily to the Center will be fully protected. As I read the bill, however, no such provision is made for families who are court referred. (Sec. 101 (f), page 6, lines 6-9).
Privileges between husband and wife or any professional person (other than the attorney client privilege) will be waived when the Family Court determines that such waiver is in the "interest of public justice". (Sec. 204, page 11, lines 23 to end and page 12, lines 1-8.) Such waiver should be conditioned on what is in the child's interest rather than in the "interest of public justice".
Counsel is provided for all parents who are accused of abusive or neglectful behavior. However, the children are to be represented by guardians ad litem. (Sec. 301(b), page 14, lines 19-end and page 15, lines 1-6). It is my understanding that guardians ad litem do not have to be attorneys but can be other relatives, interested parties, etc. Independent counsel should be provided for the child in all cases of alleged abuse or neglect as the interests of the child in such cases can be distinct from, or even opposed to, that of the parent.
As to termination of parental rights: the bill's recognition that a procedure for such involuntary termination when it is in the child's interest is necessary is commendable. However, since the basis for termination is to allow a child to develop a stable relationship with an adult whom he identifies as his "parent", I don't see the basis for the differential betwen a child 12 months old and a child of 7 years in the time allotted before a petition for termination can be filed. (Sec. 301 (g), page 15, lines 20-end and page 16, lines 1-9). Secondly, the bill makes no provision for agency efforts to maintain the child in his own home by providing supportive services and attempting to foster the natural parent-child relationship before a petition for termination is filed. (The bill even provides that a petition for termination can be made at the time the petition for abuse or neglect is filed. Sec. 301 (h), page 16, lines 20-22.) It should be the state's burden to prove in a termination proceeding that the parent has failed to demonstrate an interest in his child in the face of continuing and substantial agency efforts to foster the parent-child relationship.
Once a child has been freed for adoption, the agency is required to report to the Division on its efforts to secure adoptive placement for the child. Such report must be made initially within six months of the order terminating parental rights (Sec. 301 (i) page 17, lines 2-4) and thereafter every year. (Sec. 301 (i), page 17, lines 5–9). Since the purpose of such review is to secure the child a permanent placement as quickly as possible, reports on agency efforts to place such "freed" children should me mandated semiannually at least.
Finally, the most disconcerting aspect of the bill is that it provides for the establishment of a central record file of all reported cases of alleged abuse or neglect. These records (not of cases where findings of neglect or abuse have been judically made, but merely where there has been an allegation of such conduct) will be made available not only to the Center's staff but also to members of the police force, the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia and "other jurisdictions with the consent of the persons concerned" (Sec. 102, pages 6-9). The experience of juvenile court records, also allegedly confidential and often supposedly expunged when a child reaches adulthood, demonstrates that the
consequences of data keeping on troubled children, where such data is subject to administrative reelase, can be severe.
I hope these comments are of some help to you. The Defense Fund is happy to note your interest in the problems of neglected and abused children. If we can be of further assistance, please contact us.
JOAN E. FITZGERALD.
STATEMENT OF WILLIAM G. LUNSFORD, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON OFFICE, CHILD WELFARE LEAGUE OF AMERICA
Mr. Chairman, my name is William G. Lunsford. I am the Director of the Washington Office of the Child Welfare League of America. At the request of the Subcommittee on Labor, Social Services and the International Community of the House Committee on the District of Columbia, I am presenting the comments of the Child Welfare League of America, on the bill H.R. 15779.
Established in 1920, the League is the national voluntary accrediting and standard setting organization for child welfare agencies in the United States. It is a privately supported organization devoting its efforts completely to the improvement of care and services for children. There are approximately 400 child welfare agencies affiliated with the League. Represented in this group are voluntary agencies of all religious groups as well as non-sectarian public and private non-profit agencies. The Family and Child Services of the District of Columbia is the League's only affiliated organization in Washington, D.C.
The League's primary concern has always been the welfare of all children, regardless of their race, creed, or economic circumstances. The League's special interest and expertise is in the area of child welfare services and other programs which affect the well-being of the nation's children and their families. The League's prime functions include setting standards for child welfare services, providing consultation services to local agencies and communities, providing accreditation for child welfare agencies, offering technical assistance to both the legislative and administrative branches of the national government, issuing child welfare publications, conducting research, and sponsoring annual regional conferences.
The cirtical nature of the problem of child neglect and abuse has previously been well documented in Congressional hearings (House Select Education Subcommittee and Senate Subcommittee on Children and Youth), and during House and Senate floor debate prior to the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 93-247). Additionally, during the past 18 months, media reports of several instances of severe physical abuse which resulted in the deaths of very young children, as well as newspaper reports on sexual abuse, and the effects of reorganization within the D.C. Department of Human Resources, have described the nature of the problem of child neglect and abuse in the District of Columbia. Therefore, my comments will be directed towards the merits and demerits of the bill in question, H.R. 15779.
Although H.R. 15779 incorporates several features which the Child Welfare League of America feels would be positive in preventing, identifying, and treating instances of child neglect and abuse, we feel that the negative aspects of the bill are of such a nature that passage of the bill would not enhance the prevention, identification, and treatment of child neglect and abuse. Therefore, the Child Welfare League of America does not support passage of H.R. 15779, in its present form.
FAVORABLE ASPECTS OF H.R. 15779
The most positive features of H.R. 15779 are as follows:
1. The bill seeks to provide a coordinated services delivery system for neglected and abused children and their families by assigning a coordination function to the Director of the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse.
2. The bill seeks to provide training for persons involved in the prevention, identification, and treatment of child neglect and abuse, and the dissemination of information on child neglect and abuse to the general public, in order to encourage the reporting, treating, and prevention of child neglect and abuse. 3. The bill establishes a "central registry” for reports of child neglect and abuse, with inbuilt safeguards to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the records maintained. (See later comment.)
4. The bill expands the number of persons mandated to report instances of child neglect and abuse.
5. The bill provides for expanded, more comprehensive definitions of "child neglect" and "child abuse".
6. The bill requires that a child must be represented in any court proceedings by a "guardian ad litem".
7. The bill transfers the reporting requirements pertaining to child abuse cases from the D.C. Criminal Code to the D.C. Civil Code.
The positive aspects of H.R. 15779 are outweighed by those features of the bill which will hamper any efforts to effectively deal with the problem of child neglect and abuse. Section 101 establishes, as an independent agency of the District of Columbia government, a Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. The Center is given responsibility for coordinating public and private resources for the protection of neglected and abused children; establishing and maintaining supportive services programs for families with child neglect and abuse problems; the training of personnel employed in the prevention, identification, and treatment of child neglect and abuse; and the preparation and dissemination of information pertaining to child neglect and abuse. Section 101 creates a major problem, which will hamper the ability of the Center to carry out its stated goals. Title IV of the Social Security Act mandates the delivery of child protective services to recipients of public assistance and other persons with incomes sufficiently low enough to put them in danger of becoming public assistance recipients. Title IV also requires that there be a single agency responsible for administering public assistance, social services, and federal child welfare services funds. The D.C. Department of Human Resources is the agency charged with the responsibility for receiving and utilizing federal funds. An independent agency, charged with the responsibility for coordinating the protective services activities of the Department of Human Resources would be in direct violation of the provisions of the Social Security Act.
In addition to the requirements of Title IV of the Social Security Act, Section 4(b) (2) of the recently enacted Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (P.L. 93-247) sets strict standards which public welfare agencies must meet in order to qualify for research, training, and demonstration grants for the purposes of preventing, identifying and treating instances of child neglect and abuse. Even if the Department of Human Resources does not seek a grant under the provisions of the Child Abuse Act, there are requirements which all public agencies must meet as part of their protective services plan under Title IV of the Social Security Act. Specifically as a part of its plan for the delivery of child protective services the Department of Human Resources must:
1. "provide for the reporting of known instances of child abuse and neglect: (Sec. 4(b) (2) (B) of P.L. 93-247) ;
2. "provide for the prompt investigation of reports, and where neglect or abuse is found to exist, provide immediately for the protection of all children in the family at risk" (Sec. 4(b) (2) (C)) ;
3. "provide methods to preserve the confidentiality of all records in order to protect the rights of a child, parents, or guaradians" (Sec. 4(b) (2) (E)) ; 4. "provide for the cooperation of law enforcement officials, courts of competent jurisdiction, and appropriate State agencies providing human services" (Sec. 4(b) (2) (F)).
A synopsis of all the provisions of Section 4(b) (2) of P.L. 93-247 is included with this statement as Appendix B.
OPPOSE ANY NEW AGENCY
One immediately notices that the requirements of P.L. 93-247, mandated for the Department of Human Resources, basically encompass the text of the bill H.R. 15779, which is being considered by the Subcommittee. Therefore, rather than creating a new independent agency of the D.C. Government for handling the problems of child neglect and abuse, this Subcommittee should utilize any new legislative vehicle for the purpose of bringing the Department of Human Resources protective services in line with the requirements of other pieces of Federal legislation (Title IV of the Social Security Act and Section 4(b)(2) of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act).
The prevention and treatment of child neglect and abuse requires the delivery of a full range of services to families and children at risk. Title IV of the Social Security Act provides the best opportunity to deliver such a full range of services. New legislation should supplement and strengthen the capability of the Department of Human Resources to provide child protective services.
As with the public assistance agencies in many States, Federal pressure has forced a shifting of public agency focus from the providing of child welfare services to efforts to hold down the increases in the AFDC roles. In the District of Columbia this effort has been reflected in the assignment of AFDC caseloads to former child protective services caseworkers. The tremendous expansion of the caseload (AFDC plus protective service) make it impossible for effective case work services to be delivered to neglected and abused children and their families. The Child Welfare League of America's Standards for Child Protective Services recommends a maximum caseload of 20 neglect and abuse cases for each caseworker. AMENDMENTS PROPOSED
Rather than establishing an independent agency, H.R. 15779 should be amended to provide:
1. The existence of a child protective services unit within the Department of Human Resources, charged with the responsibility of strictly handling neglect and abuse cases;
2. Funding to train protective services workers, and hire sufficient workers to make minimal caseloads possible;
3. Incorporation of the previously mentioned positive features into the bill; 4. Sufficient funding to assure that the various disciplines are incorporated into the operation of the child protective services unit.
Section 201 of the bill H.R. 15779 requires the reporting of instances of child neglect and abuse to a "specially designated and trained nonuniformed unit of the Metropolitan Police force". The current District of Columbia child abuse reporting law also requires reporting to the Metropolitan Police Department, the only change in the law are the requirements that the unit be specially trained, specially designated, and nonuniformed members of the police force. Section 201 also gives the "specially trained, nonuniformed police unit the responsibility for preliminary investigation of reports of neglect and abuse.
It is the League's opinion that the protective services unit should be charged with the responsibility for receiving reports, and initiating investigations of neglect and abuse. Where instances of neglect and/or abuse are discovered, it is absolutely necessary for casework to begin immediately. Members of the Metropolitan Police Department, even those who are especially trained, unless they are trained to be social workers, are not social workers. Investigations by one agency, with subsequent referral to another (in the case of H.R. 15779, the Center) adds a bureaucratic layer of administration which would slow the initiation of casework services. Where it is deemed necessary for the Metropolitan Police Department to be involved in a neglect or abuse case due to a need to protect the child or children in question, or the investigating caseworker, or where criminal activities are suspected, the Police should accompany the protective services worker. However, the Metropolitan Police Department should be a supplement to the efforts of the protective services unit, not vice versa.
Section 102 of H.R. 15779 provides that members of the Metropolitan Police Department should have access to the files maintained in the Central Registry. We feel the Metropolitan Police Department should not have access to such records. Where criminal activities are suspected or found in a neglect and abuse case, the Corporation Counsel's access to the case file would be sufficient for any court proceedings which may ensure. Again, the Metropolitan Police Department is not to be the investigative unit in neglect and abuse cases. The Protective Services Unit will be able to report any suspected criminal activities to the Corporation Counsel's Office, thereby getting the law enforcement mechanism of the District government involved.
Section 301 (b) of H.R. 15779 amends Section 2322 of Title 16 of the D.C. Code to set procedures for the termination of parental rights in neglect and abuse cases. The League suggests that the Subcommittee proceed slowly on this particular section of the bill, in order to assure that the rights of all parties concerned are fully protected, and that services designed to restore healthful, nurturing conditions in the child's home are provided prior to the time that termination proceedings are commenced. Due to the emotions stirred by neglect and abuse cases, the question of termination of parental rights should be considered in a broader con
text of child welfare services, since termination has application in adoption, foster care, and juvenile justice proceedings.
Finally, H.R. 15779 does not provide an authorization for funds to carry out any of its provisions.
I have enclosed, for the Subcommittee's consideration, an outline of a legislative proposal which would meet the requirements of other Federal laws, and enhance the prevention, identification and treatment of child neglect and abuse cases in the District of Columbia. The outline is appended to this statement, designated as Appendix A.
TITLE I-CHILD NEGLECT AND ABUSE PREVENTION AND TREATMENT
SEC. 101 (a). Mandate the existence and operation of a child protective services unit within the Department of Human Resources;
(b). The protective services unit is to have a single purpose function (prevention and treatment of child neglect and abuse cases);
(c). The protective services unit is to cooperate with, and coordinate the law enforcement officials, courts of competent jurisdiction, and other appropriate public and private non-profit agencies, in delivering services to neglected and abused children, their parents and guardians (Sec. 4(b) (2) (F)—P.L. 93–247); (d). The protective services unit is to maintain multidisciplinary specialists in accordance with Sec. 101 (d) and (e) of H.R. 15779;
(e). Where needed services are not available within the District of Columbia Government, the protective services unit is to contract with private non-profit agencies and organizations which do provide the needed services (Sec. 101 (a) of H.R. 15779);
(f). The protective services unit is to provide staff training, develop and disseminate information on the nature of the problem of child neglect and abuse in the District of Columbia, procedures for reporting the same (where and how); and the availability and nature of treatment programs.
SEC. 102 (a). Establish a central registry for the receipt and maintenance of reports of child neglect and abuse (Sec. 102 of H.R. 15779);
(b). Provide procedures for maintaining the confidentiality of all information accumulated by the registry, with opportunities for all persons directly involved to expunge from the record any inaccurate information (Sec. 102 of H.R. 15779— eliminate Metropolitan Police Department access to the registry files).
TITLE II-REPORTING CHILD NEGLECT OR ABUSE
SEC. 201. Maintain reporting requirement of H.R. 15779; change agency to be reported to from the Metropolitan Police Department, to the protective services unit.
SEC. 202. Maintain basic language of H.R. 15779; change agency receiving the reports to protective services unit; Metropolitan Police Department to notify the protective services unit upon receipt of any report; Metropolitan Police Department to accompany protective services unit investigator when access to home is barred, criminal activity is suspected, or the life of the child or other siblings, or that of the investigator is in danger; and the protective services unit investigator has primary responsibility for the initial investigation.
SEC. 203. Maintain H.R. 15779 language.
SEC. 206. Maintain H.R. 15779 language.
SEC. 207. Some question as to whether or not this Section should be maintained in H.R. 15779, however, if it is strongly felt that the protection of religious freedom is of paramount importance, maintain H.R. 15779 language.
SEC. 208. Maintain H.R. 15779 language.
SEC. 209. Maintain H.R. 15779 language.
TITLE III-AMENDMENTS TO THE JUDICIAL PROCEDURE CONCERNING
Recommend make revisions of the D.C. Code relating to the parents representation by Counsel, and the appointment of a “guardian ad litem" for the child. Recommend holding all other matters relating to the termination of parental rights for consideration in a broader child welfare services context. Maintain