(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer and Vainieri Huttle to provide protections for children under the age of 18 with developmental disabilities and individuals with developmental disabilities ages 18-21 receiving services from Division of Children’s System of Care.
“With regards to abuse and neglect, the law fails to provide statutory provisions for our most vulnerable residents,” said Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). “The legislation rectifies this oversight by requiring the state to institute regulations and monitor closely care service providers within the division as well as community providers.”
Currently, there are no statutory provisions that specifically mandate DCF to conduct a child abuse registry check on a person seeking employment at DCF, in facilities or programs licensed, contracted, regulated, or funded, as applicable, by DCF or DHS or seeking to provide community-based services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Additionally, there are no regulatory provisions prohibiting a person included on the registry from obtaining such employment or providing such community-based services.
“There must be clear procedures in place to address complaints of abuse regarding children with developmental disabilities,” said “Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It is essential for their protection and for ensuring the proper care of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. This legislation is long overdue and absolutely necessary going forward.”
The bill (A-3386) provides protection for individuals with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 21 who have been subjected to abuse, neglect, or exploitation and are receiving services from the Division of Children’s System of Care (CSOC) in the Department of Children and Families (DCF).
The legislation also established procedures for the transfer of investigative reports relating to an act of child abuse or neglect, involving children under the age of 18 with developmental disabilities between the Department of Human Service (DHS), the Office of Investigation in DHS, and the Institutional Abuse Investigation Unit (IAIU) in DCF.
Specifically, the bill provides that, when DHS receives a report of abuse, neglect, or exploitation by a caregiver of an individual between the ages of 18 and 21 with a developmental disability who is receiving services from CSOC, DHS, the Office of Investigation in DHS, IAIU, or other investigative entity would be required to concurrently notify the Director of CSOC, or the director’s designee, of the referral for inclusion of the offending caregiver on the central registry. DHS, the Office of Investigation, IAIU, or other investigative entity would also be required to notify the director of any substantiated reports.
Currently, the law requires that such reports be forwarded to the Commissioner of Human Services.
The bill will now return to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.