By DAVID A. LIEB
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - A judge declared Missouri's child abuse registry unconstitutional Thursday, ruling that suspected offenders deserved a court-like hearing before being listed.
The registry is kept secret from the general public, but is used by child care providers and others to screen current and potential employees.
Circuit Judge Richard Callahan concluded that people's reputations and professional careers were damaged when their names were placed in the child abuse registry before a due-process hearing.
The Department of Social Services said it was likely to appeal the case to the Missouri Supreme Court. Callahan suspended the effect of his judgment pending an appeal.
Callahan's ruling stemmed from a 2002 instance of alleged sexual abuse at the Faith House child care facility in St. Louis. Although they were not accused of abuse themselves, founder Mildred Jamison and nurse Betty Dotson were listed on the child abuse registry based on probable cause of neglect.
The decision was upheld by the Department of Social Services' Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board, which holds only informal hearings, not ones following judicial procedures. Decisions by the review panel can be appealed to a judge, but the listing occurred before that happened.
Callahan said it violated constitutional due-process rights to list people on the registry prior to holding a hearing before a neutral decision-maker in which witnesses are under oath, can be cross-examined and can be compelled to testify.
He also said the hearings must use a tougher-to-prove criterion of "preponderance of the evidence" instead of "probable cause" — a change already made by a 2004 law.
Jamison said Callahan's ruling was "wonderful, because many people don't know what the due process is. Their names go on, and they don't know about the appeals process or any of that."
Dotson could not be reached for comment.
For some that is Deviant, I can understand a registry, but I would fear an abuse in the system. With so many innocent people being falsely accused of Child abuse and faulty incompitant case workers mishandling the cases and with no clear Federal Guildlines as to what exactly child abuse is besides obvious bruises, broken bones, and other profound inflictions, I think they need to not run ahead of their own horses.
Before they make a registry for Child Abusers, we need to clean up the system first.
-MAKE CASEWORKERS ACCOUNTABLE for their mishandling the caseloads.
-MAKE CHILD WELFARE AGENCIES ACCOUNTABLE for mismanagement of their Caseworkers.
-Make their Directors accountable. More then 4 violations and he/she looses his/her position.
-Create a Citizans Board. A panel of 12 members. Six members who have been effected by CPS and their neglect of the system, and Six members of ordinary citizens, Six Men, and Six Women.
-Then allow for Childwelfare Organizations to visit the Panel at will to make sure they aren't being manipulated.
Once we cross these roads, then I would support a registry. But a person shouldn't be placed on it until all due process is exausted and a fair trial has been heard.
When and if all this is done, then I would support a registry. Not in no time before.
The way it is now, it is unconstitutional.