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April 25, 2006

House Bill 3148: Civil Liability Eliminated for CPS

Author:
Representatives Kagi, Darneille, Roberts

Summary:
Thank you for your calls. You have been successful in stopping this harmful bill from clearing the legislative chambers. On February 14 the deadline passed for bills to be approved in the houses where they were introduced. The only possibility for this bill to be resurrected was for it to be attached to legislation that is still active. However, since the legislature closed Sine Die on March 17, that did not happen.

House Bill 3148 would exempt social workers from "civil liability for any act or omission to act during an investigation of child abuse or neglect." Additionally, this bill requires the interest of a child to be raised above the parent's interest.

For over 20 years, HSLDA has defended thousands of homeschool families who were falsely accused of child neglect. In many of these situations, social workers blatantly disregarded the law and the parent's Fourth Amendment rights. Removing a social worker from civil liability could allow a massive abuse of power. Social workers would simply give the excuse that they were simply concerned for the children and continue to disregard the rights of the family during their investigation.

Due to you phone calls, the bill was amended to exempt "good faith" acts or omissions. However, this is not good enough as the bill clearly states that any duty to act in a good faith manner is only to the children named in a report of abuse or neglect. Therefore, social services would still be exempt from any duty to act in a good faith manner towards other family members, including the parents.

Status:

01/23/2006First reading, referred to Judiciary Committee.
02/01/2006Hearing in committee
02/02/2006Executive session in committee. Bill substituted. Majority do pass
02/03/2006Passed to Rules Committee for second reading
02/10/2006Placed on second reading
02/14/2006Referred to Rules 2 Consideration

HSLDA's Position:
Opposed.

Action Requested:
No action needed at this time.

Background:
In recent years there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of homeschool families that have been investigated by social workers, many for completely false allegations anonymously phoned in from a disgruntled relative or neighbor.

As a result of the abuses of the child welfare system, we at HSLDA are working to reform the child welfare laws in the states. We support legislation which would protect families by forcing social workers to abide by the same laws regular law enforcement officials must obey. HSLDA attorneys also work constantly to represent our member families who are undergoing social services investigations for exercising their right to homeschool.

House Bill 3148 would enable social workers to act with regard to possible civil liability for violating a family's rights if "it is for the children." Also, the following statement in the bill is extremely troubling:

    "When the child's interests of basic nurture, physical and mental health, and safety conflict with the parents' interests, the interests of the child should prevail. In conducting investigations under this chapter, appropriate placement of the child during or immediately after the investigation shall be the department's paramount concern."

HSLDA believes child abuse is a terrible crime and that true abusers should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However, about 60% of abuse and neglect reports are deemed unfounded. If social workers are able to act without regard for potential civil liability our concern is that they will disregard the rights of parents and the importance of the family unit, which could cause even greater injustices.

 Other Resources

Feb.-17-2006—Washington—More Calls Needed to Hold CPS Responsible

Feb.-22-2006—Washington—Your Calls Helped Win Victory in the Legislature

Bill Text   (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History