The Senate Health Committee has passed Sen. Diane Allen’s bill to close a loophole that blocks the Department of Children and Families (DCF) from informing a religious institution that substantiated allegations of child abuse have been made against an employee or volunteer.
“Because of a flawed statute, a father who DCF believes sexually abused his own children was able to apply for a job as a youth pastor,” Senator Allen (R-Burlington) said. “That court case made one thing absolutely clear – State law is tying the hands of those who are desperately trying to keep children in religious programs safe from child abusers.”
A person who is responsible for providing religious guidance should not be a child abuser hiding in plain sight. https://t.co/SlkaoHN6EN
— Senator Diane Allen (@dianeallennj) February 27, 2017
Sen. Allen’s legislation stems from a New Jersey Superior Court Appellate decision regarding a man who was able to apply for a job as a youth pastor, despite having been found by DCF to have sexually abused and neglected his two children, as well as their 10-year-old cousin.
DCF successfully petitioned the courts to release this information, but the ruling was overturned because current law excludes religious institutions from the list of entities to which DCF is permitted to disclose records and reports of child abuse, information obtained during investigations, and reports of findings that are forwarded to the State child abuse registry.
Senator Diane Allen’s bill, S-2637, would permit any religious institution to request that DCF conduct a child abuse record check to determine if an incident of child abuse or neglect has been substantiated against any prospective or current employee or volunteer that has access to children.
“What could be more commonsense than allowing DCF to provide the same information to religious institutions that they already disclose to a daycare center?” Senator Allen added. “The courts have made it clear that the Legislature can close this dangerous loophole. We must act now. A person who is responsible for providing religious guidance and counseling should not be a child abuser hiding in plain sight.”