- Associated Press - Thursday, July 9, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has started releasing the names of people it believes have committed child abuse or neglect, despite the fact that some were never prosecuted for the accusations.

As of July 1, new additions to a formerly internal, confidential registry of people who investigators say they “substantiated” for child abuse will be shared with an online, publicly accessible registry of abusers of adults, according to a report from The Commercial Appeal (https://bit.ly/1Hed9bR).

The internal registry is used to prevent those on the list from getting jobs at schools, for example. The public registry is used to prevent people who abused adults from getting jobs at places such as nursing homes.

The change comes after an internal review of the department’s operating policies discovered that a 1987 law apparently requires that it share names added to its registry with the Health Department database.

“We think it’s the right thing to do,” Department of Children’s Services spokesman Rob Johnson said, noting the department has carefully considered its move.

Among child-welfare advocates, there are concerns about the new policy - partly because inclusion on the registries is usually permanent and partly because it could hamper the confidential nature of DCS’s work with families. The department places people on the formerly confidential registry who its investigators and supervisors say that a preponderance of evidence indicates that child abuse or neglect has been committed.

“Clearly, people who have committed child sex abuse ought to be on the registry,” said Linda O’Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth. “Where it becomes grayer is circumstances (such as) where young parents who may be under incredible pressures for a whole range of reasons do something stupid and wrong but are never likely to do it again.”

Because the inclusion can affect people’s job prospects, the Department of Children’s Services says people can ask for their placement on the registry to be reviewed.

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Information from: The Commercial Appeal, https://www.commercialappeal.com


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