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Dying in Secret

April 29, 2008 permalink

A joint report of the Children's Advocacy Institute and First Star deals with secrecy in child protection in the United States. Few American states release full information when a child dies from abuse or neglect. The quote below summarizes their point of view:

The current undue emphasis on confidentiality only masks problems inherent in child protection systems. Public exposure is a necessary step toward fixing these problems. Each year, millions of taxpayer dollars go to support child protective services investigations. Accordingly, the public has a right to know if the laws for the protection of children are being followed and its tax dollars well-spent. Child abuse deaths and near deaths reflect the system’s worst failures. Until state laws require the release of accurate and unfiltered information, we cannot identify the fault lines in the system, and cannot begin to fix them.

In the area of secrecy, Ontario is in a class by itself. In the past ten years we have found only ten cases in the press of children dying in state custody, though the best statistical estimates are that there must have been 280 or more in that period.

You can read their press release (pdf) or our local copy and the full report, State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S. (900 kilobytes pdf), also with a local copy.