Bech: Substantiation for Vermont’s Child Protection Registry lacks due process

This commentary is by Trine Bech, a retired attorney from Burlington.

Before I retired as an attorney, I had been professionally involved in all sides of the child protection  system. I have represented children and parents, run a child protection agency, and advocated for changes in  the system to better serve children and families. I believed that the state had an important role in the protection of children. But never did I think that we would come to a point where our government would include one out of every 26 people on their list without ever going to court. This list is called the Child Protection Registry. If you are on this list, employers can reject you for any job involving children, and current employers can terminate you.

A new study, Broken System, Broken Promises, has found that every time the state’s allegations are challenged, the state is found to be lacking the necessary evidence. Unfortunately, few people challenge the process because of the cost and complexity involved. When the state takes away your right to employment, due process of law requires that the system is fair and provides opportunities to be heard. The report shows that the current system is woefully lacking in due process.

Our child protection laws have created two parallel processes: First, the substantiation of child abuse and neglect, where a state department finds one guilty and can place you on the registry. The second is the Child in Need of Care and Supervision (CHINS) process in Family Court.

The two processes use different standards of proof. A person can be found not guilty in one forum, but guilty in the other, for the same allegations. Neither process knows what the other is doing.

The state provides a public defender in Family Court, but no attorney in the substantiation process and the cost of hiring an attorney is prohibitive for most Vermonters. The study also found that often the people who have been placed on the registry did not get any notice and only learn of it when they are  rejected from a job opportunity. The report proves that families are routinely traumatized, children  removed and taxpayer dollars wasted on a system that cannot tell the difference between those who  abuse children and those who do not.

This is a mess and Vermonters deserve better. We can and must clean it up. House Bill H.169 is a good starting point.

Image courtesy of Public domain

2 thoughts on “Bech: Substantiation for Vermont’s Child Protection Registry lacks due process

  1. The system is broken they don’t try to put the child or children with family. There’s a lot of things that need to be looked into with this system. And they can put you on a registry, that’s bs because they don’t investigate for the truth and they shouldn’t even be allowed to as they can be bios it should be someone outside the office but even then they can ruin people’s lives.

  2. This is a horrible system and no one should have the right to put you on any type of registry except the law. Not a DCF worker with a chip on their shoulder. Two many times they can’t prove who has subjected a child to harm so they put all party’s on the registry which is totally asinine. I have written everyone possible in our state office to try and change this because it’s unfair and unjust.

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