Christiana Glenn, 8, who died from malnutrition and medical neglect in 2011, is seen in this 2007 photo provided by a relative. The Department of Children and Families, which came under scrutiny for its handling of the family's case, has proposed scaling back information it publicly releases when a child dies or suffers a near-death injury related to abuse or neglect. Bob Sciarrino
TRENTON — The state Department of Children and Families plans to limit the information it publicly discloses when a child dies or suffers life-threatening injuries from abuse and neglect "to protect the privacy rights of vulnerable children," according to a draft of the new rule.
Allison Blake, the commissioner of Children and Family Services, says the disclosures can bring harm to the children, but at least one child advocacy group questions whether the change was intended to protect the agency’s reputation.
Federal and state law requires that when a child dies or is seriously hurt by a parent or caretaker, the child welfare agency must, upon request, disclose the child’s name, whether the agency has ever investigated the family, and the outcome of the inquiries.
Blake has called for "limiting the release of information regarding the (state’s) involvement with the child and family prior to the incident" that led to the child’s endangerment, according to the proposed rule in the April 15 issue of the New Jersey Register, a bimonthly journal that publishes new state regulations.
The department would release information only "to the extent it is pertinent to the child abuse or neglect that led to the fatality or near fatality," the proposed rule says
Kristine Brown, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in a statement that the rule changes "are not intended to limit access to public information ... but rather are intended to comply with all federal requirements as it applies to the disclosure of client information."
"Under the proposal, information in DCF records with little relevance to the abuse or neglect that resulted in a fatality or near fatality would not be publicly releasable," Brown said.
A version of this column originally appeared in feedproxy.google.com.