A new requirement for Child Abuse/Neglect investigations passed by the 2021 Legislature went into effect on June 3 when HB2158 was published in the Kansas Register.
Child Abuse or Neglect Investigations
When law enforcement is investigating a report of child abuse or neglect a member of the agency, or their designee, is required to visually observe the victim and to document the observation in their report. If the investigation is a joint law enforcement and DCF investigation, both agencies are required to visually observe the child.
HB2158 (2021 SL Ch 111) §3 Pages 5-6. Amending KSA 38-2226. Bill Summary. Effective 6/3/21.
The new requirement is for law enforcement to visually observe the alleged victim and to document that observation in our report. It does allow for a “designee” to make that observation if there are reasons we can’t get an officer in contact with the victim, such as being out of the jurisdiction or being in a medical facility you can’t access. You can “designate” another law enforcement agency to make the observation, or in some situations the designee could be medical staff. It is not limited to those two types of designees and would allow for the designee to be another reliable person. While the statute is not specific, the intent should be clear that the designee needs to be someone you can trust is not biased toward the child or potential suspect and to assure the level of injury, if any, to the child and for the safety of the child. That probably means a relative of the child is not the best option. It should also be clear the intent is not to designate DCF and for the DCF to not designate law enforcement. If both are involved in the investigation, the statute states both must make the observation. This is probably something we have been doing on most of those cases already, but the requirement is it has to take place and be documented in our reports in every case.
The question has came up about cases where attempts are made but not successful to observe the child. For example, the parent of guardian doesn’t allow it, or the parent or guardian won’t answer the door, etc. Legal guidance should be sought on how to proceed in those cases, but the new law does not change existing constitutional protections of the victim or the victims family. But clearly any such attempts and why they weren’t successful should be documented.
The bill also creates a legislative child welfare oversight committee to attempt to address the problems in the system.