The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) voted last week to adopt model legislation presented by the Parental Rights Foundation that would require due process before a parent’s name can be added to a state’s child abuse register.
According to their website, ALEC “is America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism.” Nearly a quarter of America’s state lawmakers are members of ALEC, making it an ideal place for us to share policy and legislative ideas that fit their purpose.
Since protecting parental rights involves limiting government, our issue falls easily within the bounds of what ALEC members will consider.
So last week, I attended the ALEC annual conference to present our model on child abuse register reform. In a nutshell, the proposal would require due process before a parent can be listed on a state’s child abuse register.
I began the presentation with last month’s story of the mother in Oregon who was added to the state’s child abuse register for not giving her daughter medical attention the child did not need. (You may have read that account in our article here.)
I explained that when families like the one in Oregon are put on the register without cause and without a chance to defend themselves, they are forced to appeal. And how does that go?
According to the decision of the Second Circuit US Court of Appeals in Valmonte v. Bane, “nearly 75% of those who seek expungement of their names from the list are ultimately successful.”
And while that is good news for the three-quarters being removed, that figure highlights a serious flaw in the system: as the court in Valmonte casually understated it, “The fact that only 25% of those on the list remain after all administrative proceedings have been concluded indicates that the initial determination made by the local [Department of Social Services] is at best imperfect.”
Our model, which requires some showing of proof before a name can be added, will correct this major flaw, resulting in fewer names on the list and a greatly reduced number of expensive appeals.
The ALEC task force assigned to our model voted immediately to support it. This means any member of ALEC—which, again, includes nearly 25 percent of all state legislators in the US—is encouraged to take our model back home and introduce it in the 2021 legislative session.
Many Democrats have been pushing for child welfare reform for years. To have the Republican-friendly ALEC join their cry is a significant achievement and one we want to fully use.
So, wherever you live, whether your legislature is red or blue, you can bring this model to your state in 2021. Here’s all you need to do:
1. Send me an email (Michael@parentalrights.org) and let me know you’re interested in getting this to your lawmaker. Be sure to let me know which state you’re in. This will let us coordinate and avoid duplicating our efforts. (If four different lawmakers from one state all unknowingly prepare the same model, they’ll be irritated at us for wasting their time. Instead, we should get them all working together from the start.)
2. Download the model language from our website here. You’re welcome to familiarize yourself with it, but don’t feel you have to. It is enough to have it on hand to forward to your lawmaker in step 4.
3. Contact your lawmakers in the state house or senate and ask them to take up this important reform for the 2021 session.
a. Tell them you’re a constituent calling to suggest they take up an important reform to keep innocent parents off your state’s child abuse register.
b. Share a story. Share with them the story of the mom in Oregon. Or share your own story if you have one.
c. Offer to send them a model they can use as a starting point. If they’re a Republican, you can tell them the model has been vetted and adopted by ALEC, as well.
d. If they’re a Democrat, you can tell them the model was written by a bipartisan coalition. (Martin Guggenheim of NYU School of Law and other such solid liberal thinkers as Richard Wexler at National Coalition for Child Protection Reform and Diane Redleaf of Family Defense Consulting are among its authors.) Its endorsement by ALEC just means they can easily get a cosponsor from across the aisle.
4. Send them the model language, and let them know they are welcome to contact me (Michael@parentalrights.org) if they have any questions.
Thank you for taking action to bring this important reform to your state. Together, we can protect parents all over America from the terrible injustice of being listed among the guilty while they are innocent.