• September 2009
  • Vol. 10, No. 7

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The Feasibility of a National Registry

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently reported to Congress on the feasibility of establishing a national child abuse and neglect registry. Such a registry would consist of a national database of information on individuals with a history of committing child abuse or neglect. Currently, 40 to 45 States maintain their own registries, which are generally used for background checks of individuals who come to the attention of the child welfare system, foster and adoptive parents, and employees or volunteers who work with children.

The ASPE study was required by Section 633 of The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-248) to examine the costs and benefits of establishing a national child abuse registry and to make recommendations regarding a due process procedure and data standards that should be considered in implementing such a registry. In the report, author Laura Radel describes key feasibility issues and concludes that implementation is not feasible under the statutory limitations of the authorizing legislation for the following reasons:

  • Potential benefits of a national child abuse registry are largely unknown.
  • A lack of incentives for participation could result in a database that includes little information and fails to fulfill its intent.
  • Before implementation could begin, legislative change would be needed to permit the collection of sufficient information to accurately identify perpetrators.
  • Clarification is required on several key issues that are ambiguous in the authorizing statute; these must be resolved either within HHS or by Congress before implementation could proceed.

The author further concludes that it is unclear whether child safety would be improved substantially by a national database of child abuse perpetrators.

The report, Interim Report to the Congress on the Feasibility of a National Child Abuse Registry, is available on the ASPE website:

http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/09/ChildAbuseRegistryInterimReport/index.shtml

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