Should DCYF keep child abuse reports longer?

Mar 13, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

On Thursday, March 16 the New Hampshire Senate will vote on a bill that would require the Division of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to keep reports of child abuse and neglect at least seven years.

Under current law, a screened-out report – a report that DCYF determines is not credible or worth investigating – is destroyed after one year.  An unfounded report – a report that DCYF investigates but does not find evidence to support – is destroyed after three years.  A founded report – a report with supporting evidence of abuse or neglect – is destroyed after seven years.

The bill up for a vote on Thursday, SB 63, would keep screened-out reports seven years, unfounded reports ten years, and founded reports indefinitely. 

Bill supporters argue that DCYF is better able to identify patterns of abuse and neglect if they are able to keep all reports for several years.  Even if DCYF is not able to find enough evidence to support a child abuse case, a history of repeated reports may suggest a child is at risk.

The state Attorney General also supports keeping reports longer than under current law. 

Bill opponents argue that it is a violation of privacy to keep screened-out and unfounded reports on file for so long.

The state passed the law requiring record destruction in 2002.  At the time bill sponsor Sen. Edward Gordon testified, “I think there is a general concern in any event when the government, regardless of the agency, keeps a dossier, keeps a file on its citizens.” 

Last year the House of Representatives killed a bill similar to SB 63, due in large part to concern over how unfounded reports might be used to unjustly persecute parents. 

Do you think the state should keep screened-out, unfounded, and/or founded reports longer than under current law?  Share your opinion in the comments.

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