ASSEMBLY, No. 5419

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

219th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED MARCH 1, 2021

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman† SHANIQUE SPEIGHT

District 29 (Essex)

Assemblywoman† VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE

District 37 (Bergen)

Assemblywoman† ANGELA V. MCKNIGHT

District 31 (Hudson)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Requires DCF and DOE to establish policies and procedures relating to child abuse and neglect and child abuse prevention during certain public health emergencies.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act concerning child abuse and neglect and supplementing Title 9 of the Revised Statutes and Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† a.† The Department of Children and Families shall establish policies and procedures to detect and investigate incidents of child abuse and neglect and to promote child abuse prevention techniques that shall be employed for the duration of:

†††† (1)†† the public health emergency declared pursuant to P.L.2005, c.222 (C.26:13-1 et seq.) in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19);

†††† (2)†† and each subsequent public health emergencies that necessitates the use of social distancing and other restrictions on person-to person contact.

†††† b.††† The policies and procedures established pursuant to subsection a. of this section shall include, but not be limited to policies and procedures:

†††† (1)†† publicizing the departmentís State Central Registry, the toll free hotline number used in reporting child abuse and neglect, as well as the provision of instructions for calling 911 for emergencies, and directions to assist the public in accessing the department's website or social media platforms to obtain more information on the reporting child abuse and neglect;

†††† (2)†† allowing a child protective investigator assigned to investigate an incident of child abuse and neglect to perform some of their responsibilities, or a permanency worker assigned to a child under the departmentís care, custody, and supervision to provide case management services, if appropriate, remotely by telephone, computer, or other means of live audio or video communication;

†††† (3)†† allowing the family of a child under the departmentís care, custody, and supervision to access services, as appropriate, remotely by telephone, computer, or other means of live audio or video communication;

†††† (4)†† providing for the preparation and dissemination of literature and other resource materials by the department, utilizing both electronic and print media, which:

†††† (i)††† inform parents of factors that contribute to incidents of child abuse and neglect and the legal ramifications of abusing or neglecting a child;

†††† (ii)†† outlines the services provided by the State which help in preventing child abuse and neglect;

†††† (iii)†† provide tips on child safety; and

†††† (iv)†† reinforce positive parenting skills; and

†††† (5)†† providing for the regular review and analysis, by the department, of the Stateís child abuse reporting requirements pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.10) as may be necessary in order for the department to develop and implement strategies to better detect and investigate incidents of child abuse and neglect during public health emergencies that require social distancing or other restrictions on person-to person contact.

†††† c.†††† The Department of Children and Families, in consultation with the Department of Education, shall establish a public awareness campaign to inform the general public about:

†††† (1)†† protecting children from child abuse and neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent public health emergencies that require social distancing, remote learning, and other restrictions on person-to-person contact.; and

†††† (2)†† the policies and procedures established pursuant to the provisions of sections 1 and 2 of the P.L.††† ,c.††† (C.†††††††† ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

†††† d.††† The department shall prepare a fact sheet on the information provided through the public awareness campaign established pursuant to subsection c. of this section.† The department shall make the fact sheet available to the public by electronic or other means of distribution, and shall post the fact sheet on its Internet website and the Internet websites of the Departments of Education, Health, and Human Services.

†††† e.†††† The department shall collect and analyze data on all records of child abuse reports made during the COVID-19 pandemic, including, but not limited to:

†††† (1)†† reports made pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.10;

†††† (2)†† reports received pursuant to section 20 of P.L.1974, c.119 (C.9:6-8.40); and

†††† (3)†† all reports of findings forwarded to the child abuse registry pursuant to section 4 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.11).

†††† f.†††† Not more than† one year after the effective date of P.L.    , c.   , (C.     ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the Commissioner of Children and Families shall issue a report the Governor and, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), to the Legislature.† The report shall contain a summary of the data compiled by the department in accordance with subsection e. of this section and shall include comparative information about child abuse reports made during the COVID-19 pandemic and child abuse reports made prior to the pandemic.†

†††† The report shall also include any recommendations for legislation or regulatory changes in the reporting of cases of child abuse and neglect during a public health emergency requiring social distancing or other restrictions on person to person contact as the commissioner deems appropriate.

†††† 2.† a.† The Department of Education shall require every school district in the State, in consultation with the Department of Children and Families, to develop and implement a training program for school employees on the detection and prevention of child abuse during a public health emergency that requires remote learning, social distancing, or other restrictions on person-to person contact.† The training program shall:

†††† (1)†† be conducted by a State agency or private entity with expertise in the detection of child abuse and neglect and child abuse prevention techniques, in consultation with a child abuse prevention organization; and

†††† (2)†† include, but not be limited to, information on the signs of child abuse and neglect, how to assess the safety of a child, and in what ways the signs can be detected and a child safety assessment can be conducted in person and virtually;

†††† b.††† The Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Children and Families, shall require every school district in the State, during a public health emergency that requires remote learning, social distancing, or other restrictions on person-to-person contact, to:

†††† (1)†† allow students and their families to remotely access, by telephone, computer, or other means of live audio or video communication, information about the Department of Children and Families' Family Helpline and other telephone hotlines that offer peer support, clinical, or counseling services to children who are at risk of child abuse or neglect and their families; and

†††† (2)†† provide a behavioral health assessment, remotely by telephone, computer, or other means of live audio or video communication, to every student who is deemed at-risk of child abuse or neglect as determined by a school psychologist, school counselor, or school social worker.

 

†††† 3.††† This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This bill requires the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to establish policies and procedures to detect and investigate incidents of child abuse and neglect and to promote child abuse prevention techniques that is to be employed for the duration of the public health emergency declared pursuant to P.L.2005, c.222 (C.26:13-1 et seq.) in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and each subsequent public health emergencies that necessitates the use of social distancing and other restrictions on person-to person contact..†

†††† The policies and procedures are to include, but not be limited to: (1) publicizing the departmentís State Central Registry, as well as providing instructions for calling 911 for emergencies, and directions to assist the public in accessing the department's website or social media platforms to obtain more information on the reporting child abuse and neglect; (2) allowing a child protective investigator assigned to investigate an incident of child abuse and neglect to perform some of their responsibilities, or a permanency worker assigned to a child under the departmentís care, custody, and supervision to provide case management services, if appropriate, remotely by telephone, computer, or other means of live audio or video communication; (3) allowing the family of a child under the departmentís care, custody, and supervision to access services, as appropriate, remotely by telephone, computer, or other means of live audio or video communication; (4) providing for the preparation and dissemination of literature and other resource materials prepared by the department which : inform parents of factors that contribute to incidents of child abuse and neglect and the legal ramifications of abusing or neglecting a child; highlight the services provided by the State which help in preventing child abuse and neglect; provide tips on child safety; and reinforce positive parenting skills; and (5) providing for the regular review and analysis, by the department, of the Stateís child abuse reporting requirements as may be necessary in order for the department to develop and implement strategies to better detect and investigate incidents of child abuse and neglect during public health emergencies that require social distancing or other restrictions on person-to person contact.

†††† Under the provisions of the bill, the DCF, in consultation with the Department of Education (DOE), is required to establish a public awareness campaign to inform the general public about: protecting children from child abuse and neglect during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent public health emergencies that require social distancing, remote learning, or other restrictions on person-to-person contact; and the policies and procedures established in the bill.

†††† The bill also requires the DCF to prepare a fact sheet on the information provided through the public awareness campaign, to make the fact sheet available to the public by electronic or other means of distribution, and to post the fact sheet on its Internet website and the Internet websites of the DOE and the Departments of Health, and Human Services.

†††† The DCF is to collect and analyze data on all records of child abuse reports made during the COVID-19 pandemic, including, but not limited to: reports made pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.10; reports received pursuant to section 20 of P.L.1974, c.119 (C.9:6-8.40); and all reports of findings forwarded to the child abuse registry pursuant to section 4 of P.L.1971, c.437 (C.9:6-8.11).

†††† The Commissioner of Children and Families is to issue a report no more than one year after the effective date of the bill to the Governor and, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), to the Legislature.† The report is to contain: a summary of the data on child abuse reports compiled by the DCF; comparative information about child abuse reports made during the COVID-19 pandemic and child abuse reports made prior to the pandemic; and any recommendations for legislation or regulatory changes in the reporting of cases of child abuse and neglect during a public health emergency that requires social distancing or other restrictions on person to person contact.

†††† The bill also stipulates that the DOE require every school district in the State, in consultation with the DCF, to develop and implement a training program for school employees on the detection and prevention of child abuse during a public health emergency that requires remote learning, social distancing, or other restrictions on person-to person contact.† The training program is to: (1) include information on the signs of child abuse and neglect, how to assess the safety of a child, and in what ways the signs can be detected and a child safety assessment can be conducted in person and virtually.

†††† The DOE, in consultation with the DCF, is also to require every school district in the State, during a public health emergency that requires remote learning, social distancing, or other restrictions on person-to-person contact, to: (1) allow students and their families to remotely access, by telephone, computer, or other means of live audio or video communication, information about the Department of Children and Families' Family Helpline and other telephone hotlines that offer peer support, clinical, or counseling services to children who are at risk of child abuse or neglect and their families; and (2) provide a behavioral health assessment, remotely by telephone, computer, or other means of live audio or video communication, to every student who is deemed at-risk of child abuse or neglect as determined by a school psychologist, school counselor, or school social worker.