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Do We Need a Centralized Database for Child Abuse?

Josue Rey Maldonado lived to be one and a half years old. Six months prior to his death the Long Beach boy’s aunt had called Long Beach Police Department with concerns that his mother was too intoxicated to care for him. Police arrived to investigate, and determined there was no “probable cause” to give the mother any drug tests, not finding her behaving in an intoxicated manner. Later, Josue, left overnight with his mother’s boyfriend, was found bludgeoned to death.

Child welfare experts have suggested there were opportunities missed by the law enforcers and child welfare professionals involved, which may have prevented Josue’s death, the main ones being related to the findings of Emily Putnam-Hornstein, USC professor and leading researcher in child welfare data. And the findings are shocking: If someone calls a hotline to report a child at risk, that child is twice as likely to die of mistreatment as other children. Such a call is the number one indicator of risk.

This seems counterintuitive to many protection agencies, as practice has long been based on a social worker’s ability to parse truth from fiction. But Putnam-Hornstein’s research suggests it would have been in Josue’s best interest for the officers to have cross-checked, and cross-reported the received call. A report to the Department of Child and Family Services would have required social workers to investigate further, and they would have found similar reports in Josue’s child welfare file. The lack of consistency in the attention to Josue’s case may have seemed inconsequential to officials involved, but in retrospect, a centralized database could have made the difference.

Josue is one child of the millions lost to a case of abuse or neglect. Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving more than 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between four and seven children every day to child abuse and neglect. These inhumane statistics need a solution: could a centralized database for child abuse be the beginning of an answer?

If you suspect that a child is the victim of abuse, call the Childhelp National Abuse Hotline, which is staffed 24/7 to provide advice and resources: 800-422-4453. Have you been charged with child abuse? Call us today for a free case review. Reach our law offices by calling 714-713-4525.