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H.R. 15779 AND H.R. 15918
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14, 1974
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
AND THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 9 a.m., in room 1310, Longworth House Office Building, Hon. Romano L. Mazzoli presiding. Present: Representatives Mazzoli (presiding), Fraser, Stark, and Gude.
Also present: James T. Clark, Legislative Counsel; Karen E. Fleischer, Subcommittee Staff Consultant; John Hogan, Minority Counsel; Leonard O. Hilder and Ralph Ulmer, Professional Staff; David Julyan, Congressman Stark's Counsel.
Mr. MAZZOLI. The subcommittee will please come to order.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have two bills before us this morning, H.R. 15779 and H.R. 15918, both of which are sponsored by members of our subcommittee. Congressman Fraser and Congressman Stark are with us this morning.
These bills seek to remedy the problem, the serious problem of child abuse and child neglect within the District of Columbia.
The bills are similar. Each establishes a center for treating the victims of child abuse as well as the perpetrators of it. In addition, the abuse reporting requirements, which now are applicable only to physicians, are expanded to include other medical personnel and professional child care workers.
The bills also establish clearer standards for the judicial termination of parental rights in serious cases of neglect and abuse.
There will be several questions asked this morning. In addition, many of the statements that have been submitted to us bring up certain inquiries with respect to the details of the bills.
Perhaps we will get answers to those questions this morning. Perhaps answers will come in written statements which will be open for the file in the weeks ahead.
I have some doubt as to whether there is time left in the 93d Congress to see passage of a D.C. Child Abuse bill.
And I also have some personal reservations, as we are on the threshold of Home Rule, as to whether we should take the initiative. It seems to me more logical that we permit locally elected officials to take their opportunities to establish priorities in the months ahead, starting in January.
Nonetheless, the questions we ask today, the people we hear from, the information we develop is certainly going to be important because
it does enable those local elected officials, or allow the 93d Congress, however the case might be, to proceed with the best possible evidence on the whole question of child neglect and abuse and the termination. of parental rights.
The bills H.R. 15779 and H.R. 75918, together with staff section-by-section analyses thereof, follow:]
[H.R. 15779, 93d Cong., 2d sess. by Messrs. Stark, Stuckey and Fraser on July 2, 1974]
A BILL To establish an agency for the prevention of child abuse in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Reperesntatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That (a) it is the purpose of this Act to provide for the protection of abused and neglected children in the District of Columbia, by requiring medical personnel and other persons involved in child care in the District of Columbia who become aware of cases of child abuse or neglect to report such cases in accordance with the provisions of this Act, thereby causing a coordinated and cooperative effort of all public and private resources in the District of Columbia to be brought to bear to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the child concerned, to prevent further abuse, and whenever possible, to preserve the existing family unit of the child.
(b) It is recognized that children have rights, both legal and moral, and that when those rights come into conflict with action taken by their parents or caretakers those rights must be protected. Responsibility for coordinating efforts to protect and maintain children's rights and welfare shall reside with the Commissioner of the District of Columbia who shall exercise such responsibility through the Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, established by this Act.
TITLE I-CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION
SEC. 101. (a) There is established as an independent agency of the government of the District of Columbia a Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse (hereinafter in this Act referred to as the "Center") which shall have as its head a fulltime Director who shall be appointed by the Commissioner of the District of Columbia (hereinafter in this Act referred to as the "Commissioner"). The Director shall administer the Center and coordinate other public and private resources available in the District of Columbia for the protection of abused or neglected children. Such resources shall include the services of the District of Columbia Department of Human Resources, the District of Columbia court system, the Metropolitan Police Force, hospitals and clinics located in the District of Columbia, and individuals and organizations with knowledge and expertise in the area of child care and family support programs whom the Director considers useful to the performance of his duties and responsibilities under this Act. The Director shall establish, develop, and maintain a supportive program for families in the District of Columbia with child abuse or neglect problems who are referred to the Center by the courts or other governmental agencies, or who voluntarily request treatment or counseling so as to prevent and eliminate the causes and effects of child abuse and neglect. In addition, the Director shall coordinate efforts and when appropriate contract with other agencies, groups, or individuals, for specific services or resources so as to have available the services and resources necessary to accomplish the purposes of this Act.
(b) The Director shall establish and maintain training and informational programs relating to the prevention and elimination of child abuse and neglect for employees of the Center and for employees of any public or private agency which has entered into a contract with the Center. The Director shall establish and maintain informational and educational programs for the community in general to assist and encourage reporting, treating, and preventing child abuse and neglect.
(c) Each year the Director shall file with the Commissioner and the District of Columbia Council a report on the Center's activities during the previous year. Such report shall also include recommendations for improving the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect in the District of Columbia. (d) (1) The Center shall be staffed by personnel trained to identify, treat, and prevent child abuse and neglect and who are familiar with the resources available in the District of Columbia which might assist in the protection of
children and the prevention and elimination of the causes of child abuse and neglect.
(2) The Director shall establish, develop, and maintain, as a part of the Center, at least one full-time multidisciplinary team of experts. Each team shall include (A) a pediatrician, (B) a psychiatrist or psychologist, (C) a social worker with expertise in the areas of child welfare and family counseling, and (D) an attorney. Each multidisciplinary team may include additional persons, not employees of the Center, as the Director may deem necessary, on a case by case basis, whose involvement and inclusion would be helpful for the protection of the child involved in such case. The Director may employ personnel, accept volunteers, or contract for additional services, in order to organize and maintain additional multidisciplinary teams so that the teams may efficiently and expeditiously investigate and treat the cases of child abuse or neglect brought to the attention of the Center.
(3) It shall be the primary responsibility of the pediatrician team member to ensure that proper treatment for the physical condition of an abused or neglected child is provided to such child. It shall be the primary responsibility of the psychiatrist or psychologist team member to ensure that an abused or neglected child and the members of his family are provided the psychiatric counseling necessary for the protection of the child and the elimination of the causes of abuse or neglect. It shall be the primary responsibility of the social worker team member to ensure that, working with an abused or neglected child and his family, a home environment conducive to the safe physical, mental, and emotional development of the child can be fostered.
(e) The Director shall establish and maintain an Office of General Counsel for the Center, staffed by one or more attorneys, to provide legal counsel to the multidisciplinary teams and other staff members of the Center on all matters in which the Center may become involved, and to research legal aspects of child abuse and neglect cases. Attorneys employed by the Center may not represent parents or children in any legal proceeding in which the Center may be interested or involved.
(f) In addition to persons referred by other agencies of the government of the District of Columbia, and persons referred to it by certain medical personnel and other persons, the Center shall also investigate and treat parents, family members, and children coming to the Center voluntarily for treatment or counseling in matters relating to child abuse or neglect. In treating such parents, family members, or children, the Director shall take specific action to assure that the individual rights of all persons involved are fully protected.
SEC. 102. (a) The Director shall develop and maintain a confidential central registry of all cases of alleged child abuse or neglect reported to him under the provisions of title II, or under section 101 (c), and shall coordinate and cooperate with State and local agencies in the development of regional and national registers of cases of alleged child abuse or neglect. The confidential central registry developed by the Director shall be maintained on a 24-hour basis, and the Director shall establish procedures to ensure the accuracy of information filed in such registry, and for restricting access to such registry to the attorney or parents of a child with respect to whom an alleged instance of child abuse or neglect has been filed, medical personnel investigating child abuse or neglect, members of the Metropolitan Police force, the Corporation Counsel of the District of Columbia, and persons employed by the Center. The Director shall also maintain a record of each instance, where information from the central registry is released showing the date of such release, and the purpose for which, and the person to whom, such data was released. Data shall not be transmitted from the central registry to other jurisdictions without the consent of the persons concerned and unless the receiving jurisdiction has comparable safeguards on the use and dissemination of such data.
(b) Unless an investigation of a report conducted pursuant to this Act determines there is some credible evidence of alleged abuse or neglect, all information identifying the subject of the report shall be expunged from the central registry forthwith. The decision to expunge the record shall be made by the Director based upon the investigation made by the Center.
(c) After a child, who is the subject of a report in the central registry, reaches the age of 18 years, the report in the central registry relating to that child shall be sealed, except access to that child's report shall be permitted if a sibling or offspring of such child is a suspected victim of child abuse or neglect. The amount of such detail shall depend upon the source of the report and shall be
established by regulations of the Director. In all other cases, the record of the reports to the central registry shall be sealed at no later than 10 years after the subject child's 18th birthday. Once sealed, the record shall not otherwise be available, unless the Director upon receiving the consent from the subject of the report, gives his personal approval for an appropriate reason. In any case, and at any time, the Director may amend, seal, or expunge any record upon good cause shown and notice to the subjects of the report.
(d) At any time, any person identified in a report in the central registry may receive, upon request, all information pertaining to him contained in the central registry.
(e) At any time, subsequent to the completion of the investigation, but in no event later than 90 days after the receipt of the report, any person identified in the report may request the Director to amend, seal, or expunge the record of the report. If the Director refuses or does not act within a reasonable time, but in no event later than 30 days after such request, that person shall have the right to a fair hearing before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to determine whether the record of the report in the central registry should be amended or expunged on the grounds that is it inaccurate or it is being maintained in a manner inconsistent with this Act. The Director shall be given fair notice of the hearing. The burden of proof, in such a hearing shall be on the Director.
(f) Written notice of any amendment or expungement made pursuant to the provisions of this section shall be made to each person identified in the report and to the Director. The Director, upon receipt of such notice, shall take similar action regarding any other related file for child abuse or neglect.
TITLE II—REPORTING CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT
SEC. 201. Notwithstanding section 307 of title 14 of the District of Columbia Code, any medical personnel and certain persons in child care in the District of Columbia, including persons licensed under the Hearing Arts Practice Act, District of Columbia, 1928, having reasonable cause to believe that a child under the age of 18 brought to him or coming before him for examination, care, or treatment has had physical injury or sexual abuses inflicted upon him other than by accidental means, or is neglected as defined in section 2301(9) of title 16 of the District of Columbia Code, shall report such injury or harm to a member or officer of a specially designated and trained nonuniformed unit of the Metropolitan Police force of the District of Columbia, or to the Director, in accordance with this title. Any person in the District of Columbia other than a medical person or person involved in child care who has reason to believe a child is being abused may report the abuse according to the provisions of this title.
SEC. 202. A report required or permitted under section 201 may be made orally to the Director or to a member or officer of a specially designated and trained nonuniformed unit of the Metropolitan Police force. Such oral report shall be followed by a written report if so requested by the receiving agency. Such report shall contain the name, age, and address of the child concerned, his siblings, his parents, or other persons responsible for his care, if known, the nature and extent of the child's injury (including knowledge of any previous injury), and may include such other information which the person making such report believes might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury or harm reported and the identity of the perpetrator of such harm or injury. Whenever a report is made under this section to the Director, he shall immediately notify the specially designated and trained unit of the Metropolitan Police force. Upon receiving a report made under this section the specially designated and trained unit of the Metropolitan Police force shall promptly make a preliminary investigation. The primary purpose of this investigation shall be the protection of the child. The investigation shall seek to determine the nature, extent, and cause of child abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect, the identity of the person responsible therefor, the names and conditions of other children in the home, the stability of the parents or persons responsible for the care of the child. and quality of the home environment, the relationship of the child to the parents or other persons responsible for his care, whether there are any other children in the home whose health, safety, or welfare is in jeopardy from their environment, and whether such children should be removed from such environment. To facilitate prompt and effective care and treatment of abused or neglected children and their families, whenever any officer or member of the Metropolitan Police force receives and investigates a report of alleged child abuse or neglect under this title, and whenever he discovers a situation in which the potential for abuse or neglect is high, he shall immediately