How to Get Removed From a Central Registry

Hollis Peterson

Being falsely accused of sexually abusing your own child is a horrifying experience.  Your life is completely disrupted and you will never be the same.  Some falsely accused persons lose complete contact with their children.  A parent may be forced to leave the home and live separately, prohibited from any contact with children or even the spouse.  If the accused is a noncustodial parent, visitation may be terminated or custody lost.  There may be criminal charges.  Juvenile court action is almost certain.

It is an overwhelming experience.  You will be confronted and controlled by one of the most powerful state agencies.  In the name of protecting children from abuse, a goal shared by everyone, individual rights and family rights are suspended and ignored.  The actions of the Department of Human Services in many ways is parallel to the Gestapo.  The determinative priority is to find another case of founded child abuse, even if there is little or nothing to support that finding.

Most people falsely accused will soon find their name entered in a Central Child Abuse Registry.  In many states, when a decision is made by a social worker to "indicate," "substantiate," or classify an allegation as "founded," the names of all suspected persons are forwarded for inclusion in the central registry.  The individual may or may not be notified that this action has been taken.

Central Abuse Registries, which are data banks used to store information about alleged perpetrators of child abuse, are found throughout the United States.  In Iowa, the central registry is organized and staffed by the State Department of Human Services, which also adopts rules for its operation.  The Department funding is based on the assumption that child abuse has increased to an epidemic level and that to protect children it is necessary to know about the people who are abusers.  The public and legislators want to protect children and accept these assumptions.  In a time of budget slashing and cost cutting, programs that claim to protect children continue to expand.

Once a name is recorded in this registry, the process of completing an expungement is time consuming, difficult, and expensive.  In the meantime, while the name is still on the registry, inquiries about the individual will be answered with the information the name is still entered.  Iowa Code, Section 235.A13 defines expungement as the process of destroying child abuse information.  The department is mandated to provide the person with an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing to correct the information or the findings, unless the department corrects the information or findings as requested.

Most attorneys are unaware of the time constraints in requesting an expungement.  Iowa code states that any person or his or her attorney shall have the right to examine child abuse information in the registry which refers to that person.  When the individual believes the information is erroneous, that person should file a written request for correction within six months from the date of the written notification that the investigation was completed.  Many allow too much time to elapse, miss this cutoff, and no longer have that avenue available.

My own experience was that my original request for expungement had been denied.  I received a written notice of that decision.  I then had to file a Notice of Appeal within thirty days of the registry decision.  My attorney served a written statement to the Central Registry stating that the Mandatory Notification which listed me as the subject of the report and with the report being founded was in whole erroneous.

A liaison officer for appeals with the Department of Inspections and Appeals responded in writing acknowledging receipt of my appeal request.  A possible hearing was mentioned.  I was to be given notification of the date and time for an appeal hearing.  During the next several months correspondence continued with interrogatories and requests for admission served to me by the state attorney general's office.  Likewise, my attorney reciprocated with interrogatories to the assistant attorney general representing the Department of Human Services.

An appeal hearing was scheduled and then later rescheduled by the hearing officer.  We were in receipt of a tentative list of witnesses to be used by the State of Iowa at the appeal hearing.  Included in the list of witnesses was a man who had been represented by the Department of Human Services to be a Doctor of Psychology.  Approximately six months earlier, the Department of Human Services had requested that I be evaluated by someone of their choice.  They chose this man.  After doing some checking, we learned that this man did not have a doctorate in psychology nor was he a licensed psychologist.  Iowa code also defines a "Mental Health Professional" as a person who holds at least a master's degree in a mental health field, holds a license to practice in the appropriate field, and has at least two years of postdegree experience, supervised by a mental health professional.  This man clearly did not meet any of these requirements.  I refused to submit to an evaluation by an "impostor" and we did not agree to the evaluation.  However, approximately six months prior to this request by the department, I had been evaluated by doctors who were acknowledged experts and I did agree to provide all raw data to the department.

The assistant attorney general who would be representing the Department at the expungement hearing reviewed depositions taken by my attorney shortly after the CHINA (Child In Need of Assistance) petition was filed against me approximately one year earlier.  Just one day before the expungement hearing was to take place, the department decided to expunge my name from the Central Registry.  My name as a founded child sexual abuser had been in the Central Registry for approximately 20 months.  I had invested over $4,000 and a great amount of my time and energy in working towards this expungement.

If you are the subject of an investigation by one of these departments, your name will soon be entered in the registry.  This doesn't mean that an investigation has been completed.  In my case the department worker stated he gave his "best guess" as to the outcome immediately following the initial report by my former wife.  Under oath he said that he filled out the form reporting the allegation as founded with no additional information beyond the first contact from my former wife.  This guess was made after the investigation had just begun, and before I had met with anyone working within the Department of Human Services.  The Child Abuse Registry Report was completed and my name was entered in the registry before I had even been interviewed.  This report not only listed my case as a founded case of child sexual abuse, but predicted it would go to the criminal justice system.  Please remember this conjecture was admitted to by the department worker.

It has been five years since the false allegations of sexually abusing my son were made.  These allegations were made less than one year after my divorce.  I had been given custody of my two-year-old son and my former wife had reasonable and customary visitation.  All I wanted to do after my divorce was to get on with my life.  I had no feelings of animosity.  But instead I found myself confronted by a group of people who clearly wanted to destroy me.  It was during a weekend visitation that my former wife took my son to be interviewed and examined.  There were no physical findings supportive of abuse but the report was made to the child protection worker.

I still have custody of my son, who is now seven years old.  I believe he is doing well and growing up nicely.  He gets along in school.  He does fine with other children.  But he still occasionally asks questions or says something that shows he has negative concepts and anxieties about the therapy and questioning to which he was subjected.  I was successful in getting my name expunged from the Central Registry and getting the CHINA petition dismissed against me.

Nearly three years ago, I filed a petition against the therapist and the facility which engaged my little boy in therapy when therapy wasn't needed.  This was done without my knowledge or consent.  Nearly two years ago the petition was amended to include the State of Iowa because the department workers were clearly part of the conspiracy.  Since amending the lawsuit to include the State of Iowa, the State has tried repeatedly to get out of the petition.  Motions for Dismissal, Motions for Reconsideration, and Motions for Summary Judgment have been filed, but the defendants still remain in the petition.  Before long, we should be in court to settle this matter once and for all.  All I ask is that the truth comes out and justice prevails.

(Since this article was written, Mr. Petersen had the trial of his civil action. The jury did not find for him in assessing any damages, although there was no question about the fact that he had not abused his son and had been falsely accused.  Mr. Petersen is now able to have closure, put this matter behind him, and proceed with his best effort at a good life for him and his son).

Hollis Petersen is a farmer at 313 East Southern, Sutherland, Iowa 51058.


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