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New Jersey to withhold details of fatal child abuse cases

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  1. Libel and Privacy
In the midst of an extensive overhaul of its child protection agency, New Jersey has announced it will no longer…

In the midst of an extensive overhaul of its child protection agency, New Jersey has announced it will no longer disclose detailed case reports outlining its supervision of children who die from abuse or neglect.

According to The Star-Ledger, state leaders decided six years ago that the Division of Youth and Family Services needed an overhaul after the much-publicized death of a 7-year-old. A separate agency built to examine the division also reported on the individual cases of children who had died in abuse or neglect situations, the paper said. State law already requires the state to release the name and other information about child victims in such cases, as well as to say whether DYFS ever investigated the family before.

Some open government proponents are bristling at the state’s decision to pull its more extensive internal reports now.

"The state jumped in and restructured the whole operation of DYFS," said John O’Brien, executive director of the New Jersey Press Association. "Now that it seems to be working, they want to take a giant step backwards and stop releasing information."

According to The Star-Ledger, leaders of the agencies that now control DYFS argue that publicizing children’s names and details of their deaths does not aid an evaluation of the system and can be harmful to the children’s families.

O’Brien called the change "a crime."

"It’s just another example of [the government] having done something terrible, being taken to task for it, and now that their house is in order they want to take a step back to secrecy. Before you know it we’ll be right back where we were six years ago," he said. "You don’t make things better by giving less information."