Law
4:25 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Suit claims state's child abuse registry is unfair

Four Michigan people are suing the state to change the process used to put someone on Michigan's Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect. 

The suit claims the registry is an unconstitutional and unfair blacklist of people accused by investigators of harming a child.

Attorney Elizabeth Warner represents the plaintiffs. She says some people are on the list for reporting abuse or neglect, or were victims of domestic violence. Warner says others were never notified that they were put on the list, and have never had a hearing.

"How fair is this registry when the information on it has never been tested for reliability," asks Warner.

Warner says people are kept on the registry for life, and claims the appeals process is very long and complicated.

"There is a process, but the only quick way to get off the list is to die," she says.

Department of Human Services spokesman Dave Akerly says a Child Protective Services investigator makes the initial decision to place someone on the list, and that decision is reviewed by a supervisor.

Akerly says people are notified when they're placed on the registry and may appeal the decision to an administrative law judge, who renders a final decision. Akerly declined further comment on the case.

Warner says there needs to be better oversight of the process.

"Somebody neutral outside CPS needs to be making the decision whether to put somebody on a government blacklist for life that can harm them," Warner says.

The suit claims people on the list are sometimes unfairly denied jobs.

"We need to know exactly how many employers, volunteer organizations and schools are requiring a registry clearance before a person can work there," Warner says.

She says a North Carolina court struck down that state's central registration after finding it  unconstitutional, and that the North Carolina Legislature enacted amendment to change the process.