Sunday, April 25, 2010

When the war against child abuse backfires: An excellent story from AP

The story is about the dangers of "central registries" of alleged child abusers. They are little more than statewide databases of rumor and innuendo, and due process for the accused ranges from minimal to none.

Like so much else in the war against child abuse, central registries, as they are run today, backfire and harm the children they are intended to help.

For starters, children themselves can be listed as perpetrators. The lead plaintiff in a landmark Illinois lawsuit bolstering due process in that state was a ten-year-old girl, listed as a sex abuser – for pulling up the pants of a four-year-old boy she found "playing doctor" in her family's home day care.

Being falsely listed can lead to traumatic investigations of children and, eventually, needless removal of children from everyone they know and love, consigning them to the chaos of foster care.

In cases of real abuse, when it's too easy to list the most convenient suspect, it's more likely that the real abuser will get away.