Shelli DeRobertis 9:19 p.m., May 22
The Children’s Advocacy Institute, operating out of University of San Diego’s School of Law, has released the second edition of its State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S. report.
The study “grades all fifty states and the District of Columbia on their laws and regulations pertaining to public disclosure of child abuse or neglect deaths and near deaths,” ranking each jurisdiction on an A-through-F scale based on several criteria.
“The federal government has determined that the good that can be gained from disclosing information about child abuse or neglect deaths or near deaths will exceed any potential harm or embarrassment that some individuals might experience as a result,” say the report’s authors, noting that the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Training Act mandates that “cases where child abuse and neglect leads or contributes to a fatality or near fatality must be made public so that they can be examined to identify needed systemic reform.” All 50 states as well as D.C. received funding under the Act as of 2012.
California, according to the report, has taken a step backward, falling from an A-minus score of 92 in the 2008 first edition to a C-plus score of 79 in the 2012 update.
While the state does have a policy concerning public disclosure relating to findings of child abuse or neglect that results in fatality or near fatality, California loses points for ease of access to information.
Further points are deducted due to a lack of transparency in child abuse/neglect proceedings. Unless a parent or guardian has consented or a child in question has made a request to open proceedings, the public is barred from all juvenile court proceedings, including in cases of alleged abuse.
Overall, California tied with North Dakota and New Jersey for 31st on the list of 51. Arizona, Indiana, Nevada, and Pennsylvania earned top rankings with A-plus scores, and Montana received the sole F grade on the list.