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April 25, 2006

House Bill 3153: CPS Investigations

Author:
Representatives Haler, Pettigrew, Roberts, Kagi and Kenney

Summary:
This bill would have required that reports of abuse or neglect remain on your record for 20 years any time the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) decided an investigation of abuse or neglect was "inconclusive" or there was not "sufficient evidence to make a determination." Whether the report was true or not would not make any difference.

HSLDA has defended hundreds of families who were falsely accused of child neglect. In virtually every situation we protected the family's privacy by keeping the social worker out of the house and preventing interviews of the children.

If this bill passed, a social worker who was upset that we have not let him in the house or allowed him to talk with the children separately could classify the allegation as inconclusive and blacklisted a family for 20 years.

The legislature closed Sine Die on March 17, and the bill is dead.

Status:

01/23/2006(House) First reading, referred to children and family services.
02/01/2006(House) Public Hearing in Committee.
02/02/2006(House) Executive Session in Committee.
02/02/2006(House) House Children & Family Services—Executive Action Taken By Committee.
02/02/2006(House) House Children & Family Services—Majority; 1st Substitute Bill Be Substituted, Do Pass.
02/02/2006(House) Minority; Do Not Pass.
02/03/2006(House) Referred to Appropriations.

HSLDA's Position:
Opposed.

Action Requested:
None.

Background:
Under Washington law there are generally three categories under which DSHS may classify each investigation for abuse or neglect.

Founded: "[t]he determination following an investigation by CPS that based on available information it is more likely than not that child abuse or neglect did occur." WAC 388-15-005

Unfounded: "Means available information indicates that, more likely than not, child abuse or neglect did not occur. No unfounded allegation of child abuse or neglect may be disclosed to a child-placing agency, private adoption agency, or any other provider licensed under chapter 74.15 RCW." Wash. Rev. Code 26.44.020(19).

Inconclusive: "[T]he determination following an investigation by CPS that based on available information a decision cannot be made that more likely than not, child abuse or neglect did or did not occur." WAC 388-15-005

Currently, if an investigation is found to be "inconclusive" the report is not maintained by DSHS. Reports that are determined to be "unfounded" are maintained by DSHS for no more than 6 years and then they are expunged. An unfounded or inconclusive report cannot be disclosed in a background check for child care license applications, adoptions, and out-of-home placements.

If House Bill 3153 passes, any report determined to be inconclusive or where there is "not sufficient evidence to make a determination" will be held for 20 years. Any reports that are determined to be "founded" will be held indefinitely.

Another concerning aspect of this proposed law is that any allegation that is determined to be inconclusive or insufficient can be used as evidence in deciding child care license applications, adoptions, and out-of-home placements.

 Other Resources

Jan.-27-2006—Washington—Calls Needed on CPS Investigations

Bill Text   (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Bill History