Page images

I will tell you one thing from my own experience. It is very difficult to prosecute cases of child abusers, let alone individuals, you know, reporting these incidents, because, quite often, it takes a lot of time to investigate the matter.

And if you are going to have individuals coming in just broadly and reporting cases, I wonder if that is in the public interest, and voluntary compliance would somehow

Dr. HEISER. You are talking about over-reporting. I think that is better than under-reporting, if it has to be one way or the other. Mr. HOGAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. MAZZOLI. Thank you.

Mr. Stark?


Mr. STARK. Dr. Heiser, in the instances where you have people in the medical profession, in your opinion, neglecting to report, do you think the fact that there is always the risk of civil liability for reporting these types of things, a liability which this Bill would remove, may hold people back from reporting? Do you believe that by giving them, the reporters, immunity from that liability we might encourage more reporting, as Counsel is suggesting, would be wise?

Dr. HEISER. I definitely think you have to have that immunity. But I thought you were referring first to families suing a doctor for not reporting.

Mr. STARK. No. I meant the other way, for reporting, which is also a part of that reporting section.

Dr. HEISER. Oh, yes, that definitely has to be in, not just for doctors, but for those, for anyone required to report, should be immune. Mr. HOGAN. Who would be required to report, though?

Dr. HEISER. In the Bill, it states, those physicians and those in child care. And then it defines teachers and nurses. I think it is stated exactly who that is, those in child care.

Mr. MAZZOLI. It is probably not as well stated as it needs to be as far as defining those people. And that is why I brought up the question myself.

I am concerned, frankly, about having criminal sanctions attached to a failure to report on the part of non-medical personnel, when medical personnel themselves, as you have admitted, have a difficult time finding child abuse, or determining and diagnosing child abuse. Because as you have pointed out, Dr. Heiser, it isn't sometimes that broken arm. It is the broken arm plus the cut that occurred a year ago, plus the broken leg that occurred three years before that.

And it is a total pattern. And that pattern cannot be always determined from the view at that moment.

So I think that we, unfortunately, have to forge ahead, because we have a lot of panelists. We will have some evidence in writing from Dr. Gruver of the local D.C. Medical Society on that point of criminal sanctions, and to the position that the medical society might take. May I ask one question of Ms. Steele, if I could. Maybe this is not an adequate question, but is there a kind of profile which you can apply with any given degree of accuracy which would determine those homes, those parents that, once having abused a child, would be likely to abuse again?

Someone said that the child should be removed from the house at that point, and not dilly-dally around.

MS. STEELE. I am not sure that I could speak to a general profile. But something we have just recently been having meetings on at the hospital, to try to develop some more definite criteria of these, a profile on such families. And if you like, maybe we could submit this in writing, along with the rest of the questions that you have asked. Mr. MAZZOLI. It would be very helpful because part and parcel to this whole question is termination of parental rights.

And I would like to have some information as you all might develop on that, and Dr. Green, Dr. Heiser, as you have something.

You have been very helpful, and thank you so much for your testimony.

Dr. HEISER. Thank you.

Mr. MAZZOLI. We would, at this point, have the District of Columbia Governmental panel, Director Yeldell and your colleagues from the Department of Human Resources, a representative from the Metropolitan Police Department, and Corporation Counsel.

Commissioner, perhaps you could act as chairman of the panel, and perhaps we could have the statements, and then we could get into questions for this panel.

Mr. YELDELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee. Mr. MAZZOLI. Excuse me, Commissioner. Perhaps, for the purpose of the reporter, if the panel could identify itself, and then we could proceed.


Mr. YELDELL. Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I am Joseph Yeldell, Director of the Department of Human Resources. And I am pleased to appear before you and your Subcommittee to express the views of the Department of Human Resources on H.R. 15779 and H.R. 15918.


We appreciate the concern and interest of your Committee in the tragic phenomenon of child abuse. We applaud your efforts to improve our capacity to deal more effectively with this problem.

All of us can agree, I think, that we need to do much more than become indignantly aroused whenever gross cases of child abuse make headlines in the press.

I hope very much that we can also agree that, in dealing with this issue, we must first direct our energies and resources toward the objective of preventing the physical abuse of a child by his caretaker.

We must do this by identifying children who may appear vulnerable to abuse, and then offer to the child's family an array of competent services which are intended to improve the family's functioning

ability, thereby minimizing, or eliminating the danger of child abuse in that family.

In other words, Mr. Chairman, I am suggesting that our first order of priority must be prevention.

Beyond that, we must, of course, develop a system which will be responsive immediately to the needs of any child who is the victim of abuse as defined in these Bills.

For whenever a child is so traumatized, our first responsibility must be to act, and to act quickly and effectively, in terms of what is best for the child.

I believe that this is the underlying intent of H.R. 15779 and H.R. 15918.


But I do not agree with the method in which it proposes to carry it


It seems to me that our response in dealing with critical issues should not be to establish a new agency, no matter how well-defined its functions may or may not be.

If this course is followed, how can we then deny the demands for creating a proliferation of other new agencies, for the blind, for the aging, for adoption services, for foster care, and on and on?

Not only would an evolving trend of this kind move us into fragmentation of services but also away from my Department's basic objective of developing a comprehensive human services delivery system.

In dealing with any critical issue, our response ought to be to strengthen and expand those services bearing upon it, but to do so, not by isolating the issue, but rather in the context of the broader picture of which it is a part.

Mr. Chairman, I am certain that this committee is well aware of the fact that a multiplicity of services, medical, legal, and social, must be made available in a rational and coordinated manner in attacking and lessening the incidence of child abuse and in protecting its innocent victims.

This is a challenge which stirs emotions and one whose complexities demand our finest efforts.

Government agencies, more specifically, the Family Division of the D.C. Superior Court, the Youth Division of the Metropolitan Police Department, the Office of Corporation Counsel, the School Department, the U.S. District Attorney, and the Social Rehabilitation, Mental Health, Community Health, and Hospitals, and the Department of Human Resources bear vital responsibilities to these children and their families.

And so, too, does the total community, including its concerned, and sometimes inpatients private medical and social agencies.


One of the most critical and basic requirements to an effective child abuse prevention and control system is the provision of protective


Under Federal law, Title IV-A and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, responsibility for providing mandatory services to children who are, or who may be subject to physical abuse and/or neglect is placed with the State's Single State Agency for Social Services.

In the District, this authority and responsibility have been delegated by the Mayor to me as Director of the Department of Human Resources.

Federal regulations include the requirement that, in order to receive Federal reimbursements on the cost of providing social services, including protective services, the Single State Agency alone can establish policies and procedures and monitor the administration of these service programs.

To put it another way, if another agency other than the Single State Agency for Title IV-A and B is given the authority to in any way control or assume policy making authority over services programs under this Title, the State stands in jeopardy of losing Federal reim


These reimbursements currently support 75 percent of the cost of salaries of DHR employees who are providing these services.

Mr. Chairman, I might say here, parenthetically, in relation to Counsel's question, the 75 percent reimbursement factor is under Title IV-A, and is under ceiling limitation. So it is not an unlimited factor. And indeed, the District is already at its ceiling.

Title IV-B is where, I think, the Federal Government is derelict, really, in its responsibilities in the sense that it only allocates 45 million nationwide.

And there is an allocation formula based upon the per capita income and the number of children in the state under 18.

And for the District, this results in merely $176,000 a year. And that is used to fund, I think, 15 positions.

Mr. MAZZOLI. For the entire District?

Mr. YELDELL. For the entire District of Columbia, $176,000.


Mr. Chairman, about a year ago, I established a DHR task force comprised of expert staff in the Department and charged it with the responsibility of developing a comprehensive child care plan.

After an intensive continuing effort since that time, we are now on the threshold of completing this task. And I might say, that would be out prior to September 15.

You may be certain that, as soon as the plan is completed, it will be a privilege for us to share it with your Committee.

I mention this matter because I believe it has a significant relevancy to the objectives which H.R. 15779 seeks to accomplish.

The DHR comprehensive child care plan will address itself to the total service needs of children and their families living in the District. Its mission is "to assure for all children and their families the opportunity for maximum growth and development in an environment conducive to their physical, mental, and social well-being."

It will specify not only what services are being presently provided, but also those that should be provided, by whom they will be provided,

and when.

But what is of special relevancy to our discussion here this morning, Mr. Chairman, is the fact that the plan addresses itself thoroughly to this vital subject of the abused and neglected child.

It chronicles the gaps in the present system, and it advances in positive terms what must be done to eliminate them.

Permit me to share with you, at the risk of partially unveiling some of the key portions of the plan, some of the things it proposes to do, and, I might add, that I am determined we must do.

Mr. Chairman, the DHR comprehensive child care plan will call for:

(1) A strengthening of the Protective Services Program and the 24-hour Protective Services Program.

Now, I know there has been much talk around the community about the D.H.R. moving away from Protective Services as an identifiable


That is not the case. What the Department is moving to is a decentralization of protective services on a geographic basis, with clearly identifiable and defined roles to play in protective services, and related to a central thrust in the whole area of protective services.

It will require accelerated outreach efforts to identify families in which children may be vulnerable to abuse or neglect, and the provision of preventative, protective services to such families.

(2) The establishment of a multidisciplinary child abuse team as a basic component within the Protective Services Program, and as a resource to the Court.

(3) Appropriate amendments to the D.C. Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Act of 1966, Public Law 89-775, dealing with such crucial issues as broadening the groups of agencies and individuals required to report, the establishment and maintenance of a child abuse register, and a greater involvement of Protective Services in the investigatory process.

I might say here, also parenthetically, Mr. Chairman, we met with a group from Texas that has a child abuse register system in which every case of actual abuse or suspected abuse is reported and is made available to those agencies in the area of child abuse.

Should such a case occur in a repetitive fashion, then the agencies are prepared to move in, and either move for elimination of parental rights, or certainly, to be sure to bring protective services into the situation.

We are considering such situations here in the District.

The plan will also call for the reorganization and restructuring of the Inter-Agency Committee on the Abused Child. This Committee was established in 1964.

Its purpose continues to be to assure that, through the establishment of coordinated procedures, no child who is subject to, or in danger of abuse is permitted to "fall between the cracks" because of the faults in the system.

At the present time, this Committee is comprised of representatives, designated by their agency heads, of many of the public and private organizations having responsibility for, or concern over the needs of these children.

The plan further requires that the Committee be enlarged so that it will be more broadly representative of such groups.

And to give it the clout that it must have, which, I agree, that it does not now have, it will be further proposed that it be named, appointed, and function under Executive Order of the Mayor.

Mr. Chairman, the District of Columbia Government recognizes the need for changes in the substantive law affecting children who are

« PreviousContinue »