1997 Regular Session
To: Public Health and Welfare; Judiciary
By: Senator(s) Burton
Senate Bill 2681
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 43-21-105, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO DELETE THE REQUIREMENT THAT A PHYSICIAN MUST DETERMINE THAT PHYSICAL INJURY HAS RESULTED FROM PHYSICAL DISCIPLINE BY A PARENT IN ORDER TO CONSTITUTE CHILD ABUSE; TO AMEND SECTION 43-21-353, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES SHALL FILE CHILD ABUSE REPORTS WITH THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE WITHIN 24 HOURS OF OCCURRENCE, TO CLARIFY THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES' DUTY TO PROVIDE LAW ENFORCEMENT WITH FACTS RELATING TO CHILD ABUSE IS OF A CONTINUING NATURE, TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES TO ADVISE THE YOUTH COURT OF ALL CASES OF CHILD ABUSE REPORTED WITHIN 72 HOURS AND TO PROVIDE THAT FINAL DISPOSITIONS OF CHILD ABUSE INVESTIGATIONS SHALL ONLY BE DETERMINED BY THE OFFICE OF DISTRICT ATTORNEY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 43-21-105, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-21-105. The following words and phrases, for purposes of this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed herein unless the context clearly otherwise requires:
(a) "Youth court" means the Youth Court Division.
(b) "Judge" means the judge of the Youth Court Division.
(c) "Designee" means any person that the judge appoints to perform a duty which this chapter requires to be done by the judge or his designee. The judge may not appoint a person who is involved in law enforcement to be his designee.
(d) "Child" and "youth" are synonymous, and each means a person who has not reached his eighteenth birthday. A child who has not reached his eighteenth birthday and is on active duty for a branch of the armed services or is married is not considered a "child" or "youth" for the purposes of this chapter.
(e) "Parent" means the father or mother to whom the child has been born, or the father or mother by whom the child has been legally adopted.
(f) "Guardian" means a court-appointed guardian of the person of a child.
(g) "Custodian" means any person having the present care or custody of a child whether such person be a parent or otherwise.
(h) "Legal custodian" means a court-appointed custodian of the child.
(i) "Delinquent child" means a child who has reached his tenth birthday and who has committed a delinquent act or, while being required to attend an alternative school program provided under Section 37-13-92, willfully and habitually absents himself therefrom.
(j) "Delinquent act" is any act, which if committed by an adult, is designated as a crime under state or federal law, or municipal or county ordinance other than offenses punishable by life imprisonment or death. A delinquent act includes escape from lawful detention and violations of the Mississippi School Compulsory Attendance Law, violations of the Uniform Controlled Substances Law and violent behavior.
(k) "Child in need of supervision" means a child who has reached his seventh birthday and is in need of treatment or rehabilitation because the child:
(i) Is habitually disobedient of reasonable and lawful commands of his parent, guardian or custodian and is ungovernable; or
(ii) While being required to attend school, willfully and habitually violates the rules thereof or willfully and habitually absents himself therefrom; or
(iii) Runs away from home without good cause; or
(iv) Has committed a delinquent act or acts.
(l) "Neglected child" means a child:
(i) Whose parent, guardian or custodian or any person responsible for his care or support, neglects or refuses, when able so to do, to provide for him proper and necessary care or support, or education as required by law, or medical, surgical, or other care necessary for his well-being; provided, however, a parent who withholds medical treatment from any child who in good faith is under treatment by spiritual means alone through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof shall not, for that reason alone, be considered to be neglectful under any provision of this chapter; or
(ii) Who is otherwise without proper care, custody, supervision or support; or
(iii) Who, for any reason, lacks the special care made necessary for him by reason of his mental condition, whether said mental condition be mentally retarded or mentally ill; or
(iv) Who, for any reason, lacks the care necessary for his health, morals or well-being.
(m) "Abused child" means a child whose parent, guardian or custodian or any person responsible for his care or support, whether legally obligated to do so or not, has caused or allowed to be caused upon said child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, emotional abuse, mental injury, nonaccidental physical injury or other maltreatment. Provided, however, that physical discipline (not to include any form of sexual abuse) performed * * * by a parent or legal guardian * * * shall only be deemed to be abuse * * * if physical injury is inflicted. "Sexual Abuse" includes obscene or pornographic photographing, filming or depiction of children for commercial purposes, or the rape, molestation, incest, prostitution or other such forms of sexual exploitation of children under circumstances which indicate that the child's health or welfare is harmed or threatened.
(n) "A child in need of special care" means a child with any mental or physical illness that cannot be treated with the dispositional alternatives ordinarily available to the youth court.
(o) A "dependent child" means any child who is not a child in need of supervision, a delinquent child, an abused child or a neglected child, and which child has been voluntarily placed in the custody of the Department of Human Services by his parent, guardian or custodian.
(p) "Custody" means the physical possession of the child by any person.
(q) "Legal custody" means the legal status created by a court order which gives the legal custodian the responsibilities of physical possession of the child and the duty to provide him with food, shelter, education and reasonable medical care, all subject to residual rights and responsibilities of the parent or guardian of the person.
(r) "Detention" means the care of children in physically restrictive facilities.
(s) "Shelter" means care of children in physically nonrestrictive facilities.
(t) "Records involving children" means any of the following from which the child can be identified:
(i) All youth court records as defined in Section 43-21-251;
(ii) All social records as defined in Section 43-21-253;
(iii) All law enforcement records as defined in Section 43-21-255;
(iv) All agency records as defined in Section 43-21-257; and
(v) All other documents maintained by any representative of the state, county, municipality or other public agency insofar as they relate to the apprehension, custody, adjudication or disposition of a child who is the subject of a youth court cause.
(u) "Any person responsible for care or support" means the person who is providing for the child at a given time. This term shall include, but is not limited to, stepparents, foster parents, relatives, nonlicensed babysitters or other similar persons responsible for a child and staff of residential care facilities and group homes that are licensed by the Department of Human Services.
(v) The singular includes the plural, the plural the singular and the masculine the feminine when consistent with the intent of this chapter.
(w) "Out-of-home" setting means the temporary supervision or care of children by the staff of licensed day care centers, the staff of public, private and state schools, the staff of juvenile detention facilities, the staff of unlicensed residential care facilities and group homes and the staff of, or individuals representing, churches, civic or social organizations.
SECTION 2. Section 43-21-353, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-21-353. (1) Any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, child care giver, minister, law enforcement officer, public or private school employee or any other person having reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a neglected child or an abused child, shall cause an oral report to be made immediately by telephone or otherwise and followed as soon thereafter as possible by a report in writing to the Department of Human Services, and immediately a referral shall be made by the Department of Human Services to the intake unit and where appropriate to the youth court prosecutor. Upon receiving a report that a child has been abused and that the abusive act would be a crime * * *, the Department of Human Services shall promptly notify the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred and shall notify the district attorney's office within twenty-four (24) hours and the Department of Human Services shall have the duty to provide the law enforcement agency all the names and facts known at time of the report; this duty shall be of a continuing nature. The law enforcement agency and the Department of Human Services shall investigate the reported abuse immediately and shall file a preliminary report with the district attorney's office within twenty-four (24) hours and shall make additional reports as new or additional information or evidence becomes available. The Department of Human Services shall advise the clerk of the Youth Court and the Youth Court Prosecutor of all cases of abuse reported to the department within seventy-two (72) hours and shall update such report as information becomes available.
(2) Any report to the Department of Human Services shall contain the names and addresses of the child and his parents or other persons responsible for his care, if known, the child's age, the nature and extent of the child's injuries, including any evidence of previous injuries and any other information that might be helpful in establishing the cause of the injury and the identity of the perpetrator.
(3) The Department of Human Services shall maintain a statewide incoming wide-area telephone service or similar service for the purpose of receiving reports of suspected cases of child abuse; provided that any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, child care giver, minister, law enforcement officer or public or private school employee who is required to report under subsection (1) of this section shall report in the manner required in subsection (1).
(4) Reports of abuse and neglect made under this chapter and the identity of the reporter are confidential except when the court in which the investigation report is filed, in its discretion, determines the testimony of the person reporting to be material to a judicial proceeding.
(5) All final dispositions of the investigations described in subsection (1) of this act shall be determined only by the district attorney or appropriate court. Reports made under subsection (1) of this section by the Department of Human Services to the law enforcement agency and to the district attorney's office shall include the following, if known to the department:
(a) The name and address of the child;
(b) The names and addresses of the parents;
(c) The name and address of the suspected perpetrator;
(d) The names and addresses of all witnesses, including the reporting party if a material witness to the abuse;
(e) A brief statement of the facts indicating that the child has been abused and any other information from the agency files or known to the social worker making the investigation, including medical records or other records, which may assist law enforcement or the district attorney in investigating and/or prosecuting the case; and
(f) What, if any, action is being taken by the Department of Human Services.
(6) In any investigation of a report made under this chapter of the abuse or neglect of a child as defined in Section 43-21-105(m), the Department of Human Services may request the appropriate law enforcement officer with jurisdiction to accompany the department in its investigation, and in such cases the law enforcement officer shall comply with such request.
(7) Anyone who willfully violates any provision of this section shall be, upon being found guilty, punished by a fine not to exceed Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or by imprisonment in jail not to exceed one (1) year, or both.
(8) If a report is made directly to the Department of Human Services that a child has been abused or neglected in an out-of-home setting, a referral shall be made immediately to the law enforcement agency in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred and the department shall notify the district attorney's office within twenty-four (24) hours. The law enforcement agency and the Department of Human Services shall investigate the reported abuse immediately and shall file a preliminary report with the district attorney's office within twenty-four (24) hours and shall make additional reports as new information or evidence becomes available. If the out-of-home setting is a licensed facility, an additional referral shall be made by the Department of Human Services to the licensing agency.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 1997.