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Mr. MAZZOLI. I would like to ask, Mr. Fraser, if you would have a curbstone judgement on how many children would have to be disunited form their parents, and in fact have their parental rights terminated in these cases? How much can we do by way of rehabilitation in this whole area of child abuse?
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. Well, one of the members on our staff is Dr. Steele, who is a psychiatrist and has done a lot of research in this area-he uses the figure of about 10 percent in the serious abuse cases where the parents and the child relationship should be terminated.
I don't think there is any specific study where you could say exactly 10 percent. The 10 percent is about the figure that we use. With good therapeutic treatment, we find between 85 and 90 percent of the homes can be stabilized and safely return the child.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Prof. Areen, did your study get to this point at all? Prof. AREEN. Well, Denver really is the model. There are very few places that are yet providing family services, so I think 90 percent is an ideal target. I am not sure we can make it, but we can certainly be closer than we are now.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Do you have any judgment as to the criminal sanctions that attend the reporting requirements?
Prof. AREEN. Well, I would just add again, I hope we focus more broadly than on the reporting provisions. I would agree with Nan Huhn that if you look at the wording, it does say that "reasonable” is used in the statute, and "willingly fail to report.
Now, obviously, what would be a reasonable judgment for a teacher is different that it would be for a physician. So, I think there are builtin safeguards, as it is drafted.
There is a true need to improve reporting, and we have got to do something to encourage the doctors and teachers to speak up.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Mr. Fraser, have you any comments on that point? Because I personally am troubled by the criminal sanctions, and I try not to focus just simply on the reporting, because there is a great universe of additional problems here, treatment, and team approaches, and what have you. But I guess because I do have some misgivings about this being made a criminal penalty, where there might be some other way to give urgency to the need to report. I wondered if you had some thoughts.
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. Well, as I said before, I am still 50-50 on it. The comments that I get from traveling around the country are, doctors just don't report, hospitals don't report. We have tried to educate them in some communities, we tried to point out the severity of these cases, but they still don't report. It is almost a last hope to put down a criminal and a civil penalty and hope that that will catch their attention, if nothing else.
But again, there has never been a criminal prosecution, as far as I can tell, anywhere in the country for a failure to report. There have been four civil suits, but no criminal suits.
Mr. MAZZOLI. No criminal?
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. NO.
Mr. Mazzoli. Is it your feeling that if the reporting requirements were set up correctly, and there was a clearinghouse, a central repository of this information fed from hospitals and police departments and private doctors, and so forth, that there would be a good opportunity that this could spare and save some youngsters?
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. Yes, I am a strong believer in the central registry. I think it can serve three functions. One is statistics; two, it can be used as a diagnosite tool for the various physicians you are in somewhat of an awkward position if you are a pediatrician and John Jones comes in and he has gotten a broken arm, and the circumstances seem a little fishy to you, but it is not really enough to put your finger on child abuse. If you can call a central registry and say, listen, I have John Jones here, do you have any other reports of suspicious injuries, and there are previous reports, it helps to firm up the diagnosis.
We also have a tremendous problem with parents, transient parents moving from county jurisdiction and state jurisdiction. Presently, we have no way of tracking a family that has been in New York, Kansas, Oklahoma, then into Colorado.
Yes: I do believe that when the central registry begins to function properly, it will be a very valuable tool.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Do you envision a national central registry?
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. I don't expect that we would ever have a national Federal registry. What I suggest in model legislation that I have drawn up is a provision to be added and I think Mr. Fraser's bill includes it just a provision that asks for cooperation with other states' central registries.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Like compacts and all that.
There was some question in Congressman Fraser's earlier comments today with regard to the initial reports to be made either to the police department or to the central office, and I wonder, Professor, if you have any thoughts on that, if there is any concern?
Prof. MYLNIEC. We have found that the police in the District of Columbia have done a commendable job in the past. I don't see any reason why they should not be referred to the police, although I think I am not opposing the report to the registry at the same time, or to the center, I mean.
Mr. MAZZOLI. I see. I was just-there is a recorded vote on, so I wonder if we could declare just about a ten-minute recess.
Congressman Stark has gone to vote. I thought it was just a quorum and I didn't think there would be any problem, but I had better go and find out what is happening.
So, if we could then have a 10-minute recess, which would take us to-well, make it 15, make it 12:30. Be back at 12:30 to resume with the panel.
Mr. MAZZOLI. The committee will come to order. I apologize for the interruption. but that, of course, is par for the course around here.
Mr. Fraser, I wonder if you might speak for a moment, since you did travel the country and check with colleagues in this activity of child abuse. Are von familiar with these 24-hour hot lines, and specifically, what would be the number of states or counties, or localities
that have them? And more than that, is there a consistent pattern of where the information goes which is collected in these 24-hour hot lines?
Mr. FRASER. To the best of my knowledge, there are three statewide hotline systems. The first was initiated in Florida, the second in New York, and the third in Idaho.
They basically follow the same pattern. There is a WATS telephone number that terminates usually in the state capital. It is available 24-hours a day.
In New York-I believe this is correct-the hotline terminates in the central registry.
What the states have done is to divide the State up into counties, and in each county they have isolated one or two social workers who are on call 24 hours a day.
So, if we take Florida, at two o'clock in the morning, and the next door neighbor hears screams coming out of the Jones' house-they have witnessed behavior against the child before she will get on the telephone and she can call to Jacksonville and give the operator at the hotline the information that she has.
The operator at Jacksonville makes a determination of whether or not the child is in imminent danger, and if she feels that he is, she calls back to whatever county it happens to be to one of these two social workers who are on call 24 hours a day. Most of them are equipped with the pocket bleepers, and the call goes in, go out to the Jones house. 2455 Benino Avenue and make an immediate investigation.
And hypothetically, it should be done as quickly as five or six minutes after the first telephone call goes in.
New York is basically the same. Unfortunately, New York City seems to be a separate State from the rest of New York, and they are not having very good results in New York City itself.
Mr. MAZZOLI. They are not, you say?
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. They are not having good results, and I think that is just, I suppose, because there are nine and a half million people in the city.
The rest of the state seems to work well. Idaho works well, also.
A real problem is that when you advertise that one telephone number, and you advertise that child abuse does exist and what to do once you recognize it, it just skyrockets the number of reported cases.
In the first month in New York that this hotline was in existencethat was September of 1973-they had more confirmed reports of abuse than they had the whole preceding year.
In Idaho, they are running about 450 percent ahead of last year when they didn't have the hotline.
Mr. MAZZOLI. I think you said in your testimony it went from 250 up to 28,000 in the State of Florida?
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. Right, 250 to 28,000 in Florida.
Mr. Mazzoli. All because of the availability of a publicized number and education program.
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. A publicized number and it basically carries the connotation of being non-punitive in nature. Some neighbors or people we find are very hesitant about reporting somebody to the police, but when it is a rather neutral telephone number, we find that they are much more willing to turn in reports.
Now, there are a number of hotlines, citywide hotlines or county hotlines around the country, but there are only three state ones at this time.
Mr. MAZZOLI. I appreciate the panel's help.
I wondered, perhaps, Prof. Areen or your colleague, you represent 200 cases or 250 cases that you have handled, or you, Professor, have handled?
Professor MYLNIEC. In the past year, our students including up until today, have represented approximately 250 children in neglect cases, delinquency cases, and school board administrative hearing cases. I, myself, have represented several more than that prior to taking this position.
Mr. MAZZOLI. The abuse cases of that would be how many?
Professor MYLNIEC. I belive the last time we checked, abuse runs generally throughout the city at about one-fifth of the cases. I think our records would probably reflect the same ratio.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Do you find any kind of a pattern in the area of those cases which you handled which would cause us to have some additional law or make some changes in these bills with respect to representation of these children, and with respect to the fact that when they go back into the houses, they sometimes encounter the same type of difficulties. with their parents that caused them to be in court in the first place? Are there any protections that should be written in?
Professor MYLNIEC. Perhaps one thing would be payment for counsel for the children in these cases, perhaps even payment for the counsel for the parents.
The District of Columbia right now does not provide money for attorneys in these cases. Money is restricted to attorneys appearing in criminal cases.
Right now there is a battery of volunteer lawyers who appear for the children, and also in the past year a battery of third-year law students who are permitted to practice under the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Rule permitting third-year students to practice.
These people are extremely dedicated to their work, and usually do follow-up. Once a child is back in the home, we maintain our contacts with them. However, there are not enough of us. We all find that there are more cases than we can deal with.
I suspect that if there was payment commensurate perhaps with the same fee schedule that is applied in the criminal cases, representation would improve.
Also, with respect to the parents' attorneys, we have found that in many cases the parents' attorneys are extremely important to determine exactly what has been going on in this family, and in terms of what is going on in trying to prove the case in court.
It is unfortunate that unless people are getting paid for what they are doing, they don't always do the best job that they can possibly do. And as I said, in many cases, the parents' attorney may be the most instrumental person in getting the parents to avail themselves of what resources may be available in the community. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. In some cases, it does but not always.
So, I would suggest certainly that we follow the District of Columbia practice of appointing attorneys, rather than guardians ad litem, and perhaps also consider the possibility of payment.
Mr. MAZZOLI. Very fine. Counsel?
Mr. HOGAN. Mr. Chairman, thank you.
I think probably the limitation on representing individuals before the family court has been substantially changed in the Criminal Justice Act which is now pending in conference between the House and the Senate.
I suggest you take a look at that. It certainly wouldn't apply to third-year students.
Professor AREEN. We didn't intend for it to.
Mr. HOGAN. But I think the language is broad enough now so that could accomplish representation in the family court through poceedings such as that.
I had a question, I guess of Mr. Fraser. Do you have a definition of "molestation" that you want to provide the committee? Because, you know, I think the problem with a term like that is that it is broader, and it does protect the child more, but at the same time it opens the door to some instances where children who sometimes have vivid imaginations might make charges against innocent individuals, and if you have a term like that, it sometimes works against the ends of justice, rather than for them.
Mr. BRAIN FRASER. I am afraid to admit I do not have a specific definition of "sexual molestation."
Mr. HOGAN. Is there any state that has them?
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. NO. As a matter of fact, I can think of very few states that actually even define sexual abuse. Is that correct?
Professor AREEN. That is correct. I would just add one thing. We are not recommending it for a criminal proceeding. It might in the future, in fact, be considered to eliminate entirely criminal prosecution in an ambiguous area. We are talking about standards for allowing a child to be given protection by the court. Then the concerns of protecting the rights of a parent is balanced a bit, which may help getting into the more ambiguous areas.
I am a little concerned, too, though. I think abuse is sufficient, although even that is a vague term.
Mr. HOGAN. Now, Mr. Fraser, you have heard the discussion probably about the possibility of requiring the District to have a doctor assigned to examine individuals so as to perhaps limit the demands on the private practitioners, and the private hospitals, and this kind of thing.
Do you see any problem in that kind of arrangement, and don't you think that if that were the case that you would have better reporting and probably wouldn't need the criminal sanctions in a law?
Mr. BRIAN FRASER. I agree with the first part of your question. I think it is a good idea and it is a concept that we have advocated for some time now.