February 28, 2019

The Division of Criminal Justice has several concerns with S.B. No. 891, An Act Concerning the Failure to Report Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect, and would respectfully recommend a JOINT FAVORABLE SUBSTITUTE REPORT should the Committee choose to proceed with this legislation.

Our chief concern is the provision of the bill that repeals the long-standing requirement that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) must promptly notify the Chief State’s Attorney of a failure to report under the mandated reporter statutes. Under the bill, DCF would have the discretion to conduct its own investigation and when such referrals are made. Experience has shown that it is already difficult to determine when someone has failed to report; the proposed change would only make the process even more difficult. Under our state Constitution, the Division of Criminal Justice is given the ultimate authority for the investigation and prosecution of all criminal matters, and as such should retain the authority to determine whether criminal prosecution is appropriate in instances of failing to report abuse or neglect.

Further, the Division is concerned with the proposed language of section 3(b) of the bill, which changes the current requirement that notification be given to the “appropriate law enforcement agency” with a requirement that the report be made to the Chief State’s Attorney. This adds an unnecessary additional level to the process since we cannot think of an instance where the Chief State’s Attorney would not merely end up referring the matter to the “appropriate law enforcement agency.” Not only is the change not needed, but it also creates the chance that a case will be delayed or otherwise “fall through the cracks.”

The Division also would call to the Committee’s attention an apparent unintended loophole in the existing law that is not corrected in S.B. No. 891. Under section 17a-1010a(a)(1), a mandated reporter must report when he or she has reason to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected, which includes children in private schools. Section 17a-101a(a)(2), however, requires that a report must be made where there is “reasonable cause to suspect or believe that any person who is being educated by the Technical Education and Career System or a local or regional board of education … is a victim under the provisions of [various sexual assault] section[s.]” Based on the emphasized text, the reporting requirement of subsection (a)(2) may be inapplicable to abuse private school children. Along the same lines, section 17a-101o(c) also does not seem to apply to private schools. These concerns should be addressed regardless of whether any other revisions are enacted.

The Division supports the proposed revision to section 17a-101o that clarifies that the statute applies not only to delayed reports but also to complete failures to report. This is a necessary change that will strengthen the overall statutory scheme for mandated reporting. We also endorse the change in 17a-101o(d)(1)(2) that revises the language from any “person who intentionally and unreasonably interferes” to any “person who intentionally or unreasonably interferes.” This change would expand the reach of the statute to better facilitate prosecution under appropriate circumstances.

In conclusion, the Division respectfully recommends the Committee’s JOINT FAVORABLE SUBSTITUTE REPORT for S.B. No. 891. The Division stands ready to work with DCF and other proponents of the bill and the Committee on language to address our concerns outlined herein. We thank the Committee for affording this opportunity to provide input on this matter and would be happy to provide any additional information the Committee might require or to answer any questions that you might have.