Tennessee’s law that requires suspected child abuse to be reported to authorities is too often being ignored, according to a child abuse watchdog group.
In its latest report, the Second Look Commission, which closely examines severe abuse cases, asks officials to be more vigilant this year in holding adults accountable. Failure to report abuse concerns can be charged as a criminal misdemeanor.
The commission is also worried that suspected abusers are getting too much access to children who have been placed into protective custody.
The group found that one child was killed by someone who was under a judge’s order to stay away and have no contact. (The report did not provide further specifics.)
The broader concern is a practice known as a “family placement.” That’s when an endangered child is temporarily moved into a relative’s home, an arrangement when a no-contact order might be ignored.
“It’s ongoing,” said commission Director Craig Hargrow. “Since our inception, we’ve noticed that.”
The commission suggests that judges should more clearly inform caretakers of their duties, even if they’re family members. And the members of the commission are checking on whether no-contact orders can be loaded into a state database so that police can easily check on violators.
Fatality Data Reported
Since 2013, the Second Look Commission has found that 16 Tennessee children have died even after state Child Protective Services had confirmed that there was prior abuse.
That statistic had not been tracked by officials prior to a Tennessean investigation and a shakeup at the Department of Children’s Services.
The agency has also firmed up its method of counting instances of children who are severely abused more than once. In fiscal year 2015, the state had 643 such cases, of which the majority involved repeat sexual abuse or exposure to drug use.