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abused. The present law is not only deficient in terms of omission, but creates obstacles to current prevention efforts.
For instance, there is a need for enactment of legislation to provide for the termination of parental rights.
We also consider critical to the success of efforts to prevent child abuse the expansion in the law of the persons who are required to report instances of child abuse.
Enforcement experience under the present D.C. Child Abuse Reporting Law of 1966 appears to support the creation of a penalty for failure to report.
To encourage such reporting, we recognize the importance of immunity provisions for those who report or are otherwise involved in proceedings regarding child abuse.
We also think a child abuse law must consider not only the child who is abused but protection for siblings.
The present law, D.C. Code Sections 16-2332 and 2311, needs to be amended to permit the Metropolitan Police Department to share its information about reported instances of child abuse with the Department of Human Resources and to require that reports of child abuse be filed initially with the Police Department.
Again, Mr. Chairman, I might say, parenthetically, both our Department and the Police Department have been working in regards to this matter. There is not a hesitancy on the part of the Police Department to so report, but a restriction in the law.
Both of these amendments will increase the City's ability to prevent child abuse cases.
These are some of the issues which we think must be addressed in a revision of the City's child abuse laws.
We would hope, however, that the revision could be comprehensive rather than piecemeal.
The work which the Department of Human Resources has been doing in connection with the development of a comprehensive child care plan, along with the result of these hearings, will provide the overview which we think is essential before comprehensive revision of the City's child abuse laws should take place.
We welcome the suggestion of this Committee that the record of these hearings be made available to the City Council so that the elected Government will have the opportunity to study and evaluate the concerns which are expressed by other witnesses.
With the DHR comprehensive child care plan in hand, the Council will be able to develop an appropriate child abuse law for the City of Washington, D.C.
That concludes my testimony, Mr. Chairman, and I and other members of the panel will be happy to respond to any questions you may have.
COMPREHENSIVE CHILD ABUSE PLAN
Mr. MAZZOLI. Thank you very much, Mr. Yeldell, for a fine statement. And it helps us as we try to wrestle with this problem to have the timetable for your comprehensive plan.
Mr. YELDELL. The plan itself will be issued September 15th, before September 15th, on or before that.
And I might say, Mr. Chairman, very clearly that the purpose of release of the plan is to open it to public exposure and discussion, so that, indeed, what can result is a plan of action that the city will follow.
As I say, in the plan, we call good attention to where omissions have occurred. We call attention to where things need to be done. We call attention to where, indeed, legislation prohibits us from doing certain things.
It is a blueprint of what should be done, by whom it should be done, without any consideration of the current restrictions.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Mr. Yeldell, is that plan now being formulated in light of the fact that the District sits between and among two States, and to coordinate our plan with any that might exist in Virginia or Maryland?
Mr. YELDELL. Well, we live with that every day, Mr. Chairman, in terms of the Department. And in many areas, we are looking at regional cooperation.
Our concern, sir, is that we take care of children, certainly in the District of Columbia, but that there be provisions in the District for handling an abused child who may be physically in the District, no matter what his residency.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Very good. In the event that the publication of this plan will receive response from the community and from organizations and from professional members, is it your thought then to compile these responses, and filter them, and funnel them eventually to City Government, to the elected City Council, or what is your expectation with regard to this plan when it is distilled?
Mr. YELDELL. Mr. Chairman, I will be submitting the plan to the Mayor, who will forward it to the City Council for public hearing. And at that point, the community, and that means organizations or citizens, will be in a position to comment on that plan. And there will be a written record of that.
And then, it is the hope that the Department with the City Council and those results will get together and actually set the plan of action for the city.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Do you agree with the concerns that I have and others of the panel have expressed with regard to the criminal sanctions that are tentatively levied against non-professionals for failure to report instances of child abuse?
Mr. YELDELL. I listened to the comments on that, Mr. Chairman. I might say I do have some concern.
My thought is that what we are after is identifying as early as pos sible any child who may have been abused, or who is potentially in a position to be abused.
And it would appear to me that we would want to get that information in hand as soon as possible.
And rather than, from my proint of view, having it functioning under some criminal sanction, it would be an extensive community program that would educate to the effects of child abuse, and encourage people to report as rapidly as possible, such instances.
I think, having the ability to go and communicate other than with a law enforcement agency in many cases may encourage other people to so report.
You say, non-professional. I am concerned about professionals as well. The teacher who runs across a cast in class, if, in relation to an outreach worker from the Department of Human Resources, on a social basis, is able to simply chat informally about what they consider to be a suspected case, it would appear to me we would start a process where we would begin to get concerned with the child, rather than with moving into the courts with people who have failed to cooperate with the system.
That is a personal opinion of mine. I don't know that Counsel or the police share that. And so I would appreciate their response as well, Mr. Chairman. But that is where I come down.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Well, thank you. Let me ask you one final question, Mr. Yeldell.
Is it your expectation that this new plan will require action by the newly elected City Council? Or will this be some Department regulation that would carry over to the new Government?
Mr. YELDELL. No. It will very clearly require action by the Council in many parts.
There are parts of the plan that can be implemented because the power is solely within the Department of Human Resources right now.
In other words, we are saying that, when the Mayor started the Human Resources concept, the idea was to bring together on a comprehensive basis many of the services that are in the human area, human
We are saying that we have not done all that we can do. And we are recognizing that in the plan. And we will move to immediate implementation of those factors.
There are other things that will require action by the City Government. There will be other thing that may even require Congressional action in terms of fully realizing the goal of our plan as we have written it.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Could I ask the lady from the Corporation Counsel's office, what is your feeling, or does Corporation Counsel have a position on criminal liabilities for failure to report?
Ms. HUнN. Yes, Mr. Chairman. In fact, I note in both Bills that it would be our responsibility to enforce that provision.
I would like to preface my remark by one statement, in that I have personally been involved in the handling of approximately 200 to 250 cases of neglect and child abuse in the last 2 years.
I say that because, in that 200 to 250 cases, I have never had a private physician in the District of Columbia make a report of child abuse, never, in any of those cases. Of course, I can only speak of my personal knowledge.
I would also state that, if we eliminated Children's Hospital, which, of course, we do not wish to do, the number of reports, outside of Children's Hospital and D.C. General, we would, practically, have few if any reports in the District of Columbia.
And for that reason, I would like to also add one other note. In Title II, Section 164 of the D.C. Code, it states specifically that doctors who report presently are immune from civil liability.
Therefore, it would be my position that civil liability is not the answer. It has not been.
I would agree to a certain extent with what Mr. Yeldell is saying, in that for some quasi-professional people we do not need to have a criminal sanction.
I would also agree with the gentleman from Children's Hospital that certain forms of neglect may be a problem.
However, I think we have got to look at certain things. One, the doctors are not reporting cases. Two, other professionals are not reporting cases. Three, the fact is that any criminal sanction would have to be proved in Court.
We are not talking about, a person fails to report, they automatically get a fine or go to jail. We are talking about an attorney, Corporation Counsel having to go to Court to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. I noticed some of the members of the committee seem concerned about being able to identify whether a person required to report has the ability to judge. I would liken it to the criminal fraud section of any code really, where knowing or having reason to know is one of the elements of proof that has to be shown.
I would just suggest to the committee that the way the penalty is written, it would basically have to require a prosecutor proving that the person knew or had reason to know. And that is a built in safeguard.
Because if they cannot prove the person knew or had reason to know, then there would be no prosecution.
I think that, it is certainly my position, and since our office would be prosecuting, I think this would speak for the position we would take on this kind of legislation, would be not to go out wholesale, and to prosecute every doctor and social worker and teacher we could get our hands on.
It would really be more a coercive factor to get these people to report.
I think, in the past, in fact just this week, we have had one case of a doctor who failed to report a serious burn case of a child, a private physician.
It only came to our attention, again, because of Children's Hospital. I think that, if these people knew and were educated to the fact of criminal penalty, I think maybe we would never have to prosecute anybody. So we are in favor of this policy.
Mr. GILL. May I speak also to that point?
Mr. GILL. I think what could also be said is that, under present law, in certain extreme circumstances where the abuse of the child amounts to a felony, the person who fails to report is already liable for misfeasance of a felony; that is, to know that a felony has occurred, and failed to make that felony known.
But I think what we are also saying in the bill is that we feel that a great majority of cases involving child abuse, while they may not be felonies themselves, are those kinds of serious misdemeanors which ought to be reported.
And therefore, there ought to be a reporting requirement for persons who have knowledge, particularly professionals of the non-medical variety, and including the medical variety.
We have found, as a police department, that when there exists a reporting requirement with a sanction, it is easier to bring that to the attention of the person who has only a professional and moral duty to report.
So that, the existence of a penalty, the existence of a reporting requirement is a sanction in and of itself, without having to resort to Court, without having to resort to the imposition of the penalty.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Counsel, do you think that the police officers can be trained well enough to recognize the signs and symbols of abuse, so that you would not have one of your good police officers get thrown in the pokey for failure to report at some point, or have some aggressive prosecutor put that individual in jail?
Mr. GILL. I think, if I understand the question, the factor that must be recognized is that, with the commission of any crime, whether it be one of this seriousness and complexity or not, the police officer has a responsibility, and can be trained to do an adequate job.
But I think the more important point to be brought out here is the fact that everyone who makes a technical or a minor violation of the reporting requirement is not going to be prosecuted by the prosecutor. In our system of justice, we rely on the prosecutor's office to exercise discretion in terms of bringing to attention of the Courts only those matters which have a serious consequence either to the community, to the standard of law, or to the individual involved.
So I do not fear for a danger with the police officers or with others in this area.
And I think, as previous medical authorities have reported to this Committee this morning, there are some which are serious without question that the average individual, even without special training, can recognize.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Officer, you are with the Youth Bureau, and I guess you have worked with young people and children. As a police officer, do you have any feelings or concerns or reservations about applying a criminal sanction to the reporting requirements for child abuse?
Lt. PRELI. No, Mr. Chairman. I am in accord with Mr. Yeldell and the Corporation Counsel and the D.C. Counsel. We feel that is the proper procedure.
Mr. MAZZOLI. If I may ask Corporation Counsel, there are some 200 to 250 cases that you personally associated with. How many cases could you make under this reporting law?
Ms. HUHN. With the present investigation by Youth Division officers, I have only-of cases I have taken to Court-we have only lost
And I do not believe, very honestly, it was because I am such a fantastic prosecutor.