Del Norte DHHS’s Practice Discouraged Child Abuse Reports, Says California Attorney General’s Office
Press release from the California Department of Justice:
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced that the California Department of Justice (DOJ) has entered into an agreement with Del Norte County’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to address DHHS’s obligations under California’s Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act.
The agreement announced today follows the Office of the Attorney General’s review of Del Norte County DHHS’s practice of sending letters discussing criminal penalties for “false reporting” of suspected child abuse or neglect to persons who had come forward to report abuse or neglect. California DOJ concluded that this practice discourages the reporting of child abuse and neglect, and directly conflicts with the goals and the spirit of California’s child protection laws.
“California’s child protection laws are meant to protect our children from harm and ensure that those in positions of authority respond promptly. This means that when people come forward to report suspected crimes against our children, we take them seriously and never discourage the reporting of potential abuse or neglect,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The agreement reached today is another example of the California Department of Justice working together with public agencies to identify and remedy deficient practices so that all of us can do our part to provide for the safety and welfare of all our children.”
The agreement between California DOJ and Del Norte County DHHS, memorialized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), requires Del Norte County DHHS to immediately implement corrective action with respect to the false reporting letters and to provide mandatory training to all child welfare staff. The agreement also provides for an independent review of Del Norte County DHHS’s screening and intake policies, procedures, and practices by an expert consultant and establishes a plan to address other identified deficiencies after the review is complete.
The mission of California DOJ’s Bureau of Children’s Justice is to protect the rights of children, especially in instances involving the interplay of multiple agencies or disciplines, and to focus the attention and resources of law enforcement and policymakers on safeguarding the children of California.
A copy of the MOU can be found here.