A report by an advocacy group finds that a “culture of secrecy” continues to hamper efforts to stem the tide of child abuse-related fatalities and near-fatalities across the United States. Public disclosure that could help prevent future tragedies is hampered by many states' restrictive disclosure laws, according to a new state-by-state study by the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law and First Star, a national organization working to improve the lives of America's abused and neglected children.
Child abuse is “a red flag that something has gone terribly wrong with the child welfare system responsible for that child,” said Robert C. Fellmeth, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Institute. “Yet, too often these cases are shrouded in secrecy and, as a result, literally fatal flaws in state systems go undetected and opportunities to fix them are missed.” The “State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S.” report assigns letter grades to states based on disclosure laws and policies. The report gave mediocre to poor grades (C+ or lower) to 20 states, including some of the country's most populous, including California, Texas, New York and New Jersey. Colorado, Delaware, and New Mexico received grades in the D range, while Montana received the country's lone F.