2003 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare
By: Representative Fleming
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 43-21-257, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT AN ADJUDICATION OR A CRIMINAL CONVICTION IS REQUIRED FOR INCLUSION IN THE CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT CENTRAL REGISTRY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, PENDING DUE PROCESS; TO PROVIDE FOR IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 43-21-257, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-21-257. (1) Unless otherwise provided in this section, any record involving children, including valid and invalid complaints, and the contents thereof maintained by the Department of Human Services, or any other state agency, shall be kept confidential and shall not be disclosed except as provided in Section 43-21-261.
(2) The Office of Youth Services shall maintain a state central registry containing the number and disposition of all cases together with such other useful information regarding those cases as may be requested and is obtainable from the records of the youth court. The Office of Youth Services shall annually publish a statistical record of the number and disposition of all cases, but the names or identity of any children shall not be disclosed in the reports or records. The Office of Youth Services shall adopt such rules as may be necessary to carry out this subsection. The central registry files and the contents thereof shall be confidential and shall not be open to public inspection. Any person who * * * discloses or encourages the disclosure of any record involving children from the central registry shall be subject to the penalty in Section 43-21-267. The youth court shall furnish, upon forms provided by the Office of Youth Services, the necessary information, and these completed forms shall be forwarded to the Office of Youth Services.
(3) The Department of Human Services shall maintain a state central registry on neglect and abuse cases containing (a) the name, address and age of each child, (b) the nature of the harm reported, (c) the name and address of the person responsible for the care of the child, and (d) the name and address of the substantiated perpetrator of the harm reported. "Substantiated perpetrator" shall be defined as an individual who has committed an act(s) of sexual abuse or physical abuse that would otherwise be deemed as a felony or any child neglect that would be deemed as a threat to life, as determined upon investigation by the Office of Family and Children's Services. "Substantiation" for the purposes of the Mississippi Department of Human Services Central Registry shall require a * * * criminal conviction or an adjudication by a youth court judge or court of competent jurisdiction, ordering that the name of the perpetrator be listed on the central registry, pending due process . The Department of Human Services shall adopt such rules and administrative procedures, especially those procedures to afford due process to individuals who have been named as substantiated perpetrators before the release of their name from the central registry, as may be necessary to carry out this subsection. The central registry shall be confidential and shall not be open to public inspection. Any person who * * * discloses or encourages the disclosure of any record involving children from the central registry without following the rules and administrative procedures of the department shall be subject to the penalty in Section 43-21-267. The Department of Human Services and its employees are * * * exempt from any civil liability as a result of any action taken pursuant to the compilation and/or release of information on the central registry under this section and any other applicable section of the code, unless determined that an employee has willfully and maliciously violated the rules and administrative procedures of the department, pertaining to the central registry or any section of this code. If an employee is determined to have willfully and maliciously performed such a violation, said employee shall not be exempt from civil liability in this regard.
(4) The Mississippi State Department of Health may release the findings of investigations into allegations of abuse within licensed day care centers made under the provisions of Section 43-21-353(8) to any parent of a child who is enrolled in the day care center at the time of the alleged abuse or at the time the request for information is made. The findings of any such investigation may also be released to parents who are considering placing children in the day care center. No information concerning those investigations may contain the names or identifying information of individual children.
The Department of Health shall not be held civilly liable for the release of information on any findings, recommendations or actions taken pursuant to investigations of abuse that have been conducted under Section 43-21-353(8).
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.