A culture of secrecy in many states is hindering efforts to reduce child abuse deaths and serious injuries, says a report by a national child advocacy organization quoted by The Oklahoman. “The death of an abused or neglected child is not only an unspeakable tragedy, it is also a red flag that something has gone terribly wrong with the child welfare system responsible for that child,” said Robert Fellmeth of the Children’s Advocacy Institute at he University of San Diego School of Law. Oklahoma’s child welfare system has come under intense criticism after news media reports about the state’s failure to prevent the deaths of children despite numerous reports of possible abuse and injuries in the months leading up their deaths.
News media have been limited in their efforts to collect information about events leading up to child deaths in some other cases by a state law that requires someone to be charged with a crime before state officials will release background information. Oklahoma and several other states drew strong criticism for their secretive laws and policies in the report, “2nd Edition, State Secrecy and Child Deaths in the U.S.” “The current undue emphasis on confidentiality only masks problems inherent in child protection systems,” the report said. “Public exposure is a necessary step toward fixing these problems. Each year, millions of taxpayer dollars go to support child protective services investigations. Accordingly, the public has a right to know if the laws for the protection of children are being followed and its tax dollars well-spent.”