Protect children by removing secrecy
Our position is: Proposed legislation to open state's child protection system to public scrutiny would be a powerful tool for reform.
State legislators should rally behind a proposal to wipe away the secrecy that envelopes Indiana's child protection system.
State Reps. Jeb Bardon and David Orentlicher, both Democrats from Indianapolis, are writing a bill that would allow the Family and Social Services Administration to release details of child abuse investigations in certain circumstances. FSSA administrators say state law now forbids them from even commenting on specific cases.
The secrecy of the system has been under increasing scrutiny in the past year after a Star investigation found that the state had drastically under-reported the number of children who died from abuse or neglect.
Even people working inside the system are critical of the secrecy. Marion County Juvenile Court Judge James Payne recently said confidentiality laws shield the state more than they protect abused children.
Bardon and Orentlicher say their legislation will be modeled after laws in other states. Twenty-three states already allow the release of some records involving child abuse, usually in the case of a death.
Gov. Joe Kernan has asked a state commission that is studying Indiana's child protection system to examine the confidentiality laws. But some members of the panel, which conducted its second meeting Friday, say lawmakers shouldn't wait for the committee to finish its work late next year before making needed changes.
Opening the system to scrutiny would be a powerful tool for pushing reform and rebuilding public confidence. Legislators should make the Bardon-Orentlicher bill a priority.
Committee to Elect David Orentlicher