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Indicated Reports of Child Abuse or Maltreatment: When Suspects Become Victims


  • Joan Owhe



Most states have central registries for reporting suspected child abuse to help child protective services, childcare providers, adoption agencies, and professions that have contact with children, know whether an individual has a history of child abuse. If the local agency finds that there is some credible evidence to support the complaint, the report is marked “indicated” and the individual who is the subject of the report is listed on the central register. Although this information can be invaluable in preventing future child abuse, central registries may contain false or unsubstantiated accounts of child abuse, implicating innocent individuals. These falsely accused parents are left to deal with the consequences, such as loss of employment opportunities. To address the problem of indicated reports and the harsh consequences innocent foster parents face as subjects of such reports, this Note proposes that the standard for substantiating reports of child abuse or maltreatment should be raised from the “credible evidence” standard to the “fair preponderance of the evidence” standard.

Key Points for the Family Court Community

  • Addressing the issue of child abuse and maltreatment is of great importance and the need to create effective measures for dealing with this issue is imperative
  • This Note discusses how reporting suspected child abuse or maltreatment to the State Central Registry may help resolve this problem, but may also create a new class of victims if the standard for substantiating the report is below the fair preponderance of the evidence standard
  • This Note focuses on the harsh consequences child care providers, such as foster parents, face when reports made to the State Central Registry are substantiated under the credible evidence standard but prove to be baseless when the evidence is measured using the fair preponderance of the evidence standard
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