Bill would close NJ child abuse disclosure loophole
Religious organizations in New Jersey may have child abusers working or volunteering for them and not be aware of it, according to one state lawmaker.
Currently, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) is authorized to relay information about people with a history of child abuse or neglect to law enforcement agencies, physicians, daycare centers, but not religious groups. A bill recently approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee seeks to correct what the sponsor called, "an oversight."
"Right now, religious institutions aren't afforded that same level of information. It seems pretty straight forward that this is something we want to correct," said Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel). "When we put children in someone's care we have to go the extra mile to make sure that those who have them in their care are folks that we would find suitable and upstanding."
It was a recent court case that made Singleton aware of the situation. The case involved a man who had been found guilty of abusing and neglecting his two children who later applied for a job as a youth pastor. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency asked the courts to allow the information to be released to the church. Permission was granted, but the appellate division reversed the decision in April.
"My bill would allow DCF to inform religious institutions and permit the institutions to request that DCF conduct a check of its child abuse records to determine whether or not a current or prospective employee or volunteer for that matter who has access to kids has any substantiated claims against them," Singleton explained.
The bill applies to child abuse or neglect of any kind that has been substantiated and is on file in DCF's records Singleton said.