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Concern Raised Over Adding Suspected Child Abusers To Public Database

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Posted at 5:59 PM, Jul 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-30 16:55:49-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There’s a new development over a new DCS policy to add suspected child abusers to a public database.

In some cases, the accused have never been convicted of a crime.

For years the Tennessee Department of Children's Services has kept a database containing the names of people they believed committed either child neglect or abuse.

“If we investigate people and find they're substantiated for abuse or neglect we're going to mark that in our records," DCS spokesman Rob Johnson said.

The database containing 154,000 names has been confidential.

Now, DCS has made the decision to make new names added to the list public.

The names would be sent to the Tennessee Department of Health and placed in the agency's abusers database.

Johnson said, "If anybody in public goes to the health department's website, to their abuse registry you can type in a name to see if you get a match. It's not a long list of names you see on the website. You type in a name to see if it's there."

Only people believed to have committed abuse or neglect as of March 15 would be added.

The decision has raised concerns among attorneys and advocacy groups who have worked with children and families.

Linda O'Neal, the executive director for the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said there have been many people who don't belong on the list if sexual abuse was not involved.

"Especially those involving young parents under who are under incredible pressure who may do something really stupid and really wrong, but are unlikely to ever do it again,” O'Neal said. “When they go on a public registry like this it's like a Scarlet Letter that has serious implications."

They'd never be able to work around children.

The list is permanent. Once a name is there it can't be removed.

It's an issue that may have the attention of Tennessee State Lawmakers in January.

Franklin Republican Representative Jeremy Durham said, "I have concerns about publishing names of people who may or may not have committed an offense and have not been afforded the benefit of our court system."