A National Database of Child Abuse Reports Could Have Saved Him: When Only His Eyes Could Ask for He
This picture is haunting. It is lauded as a wholesome picture of a young man hugging a police officer. In Devonte Hart's eyes is a cry for help. The next time the world would hear about Devonte, his adoptive parents intentionally drove him and his five siblings off a cliff in California. When officers went to investigate in Oregon where the family lived, they found a child protective services (CPS) business card at the door. Neighbors say the siblings would escape and beg for food and the parents dispensed punishments meant to break the will of the children.
They moved states three times across state lines: each time CPS was contacted regarding potential abuse. Records stayed in each jurisdiction. The parents even pulled the children out of school after teachers consistently called CPS.
Allowing states to search NCANDS (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Set) would allow CPS to connect past instances of abuse across state lines. This picture is of a child begging for help. He and his five siblings may have died but others are still out there who have a chance to live. Connecting the reports of child abuse across state lines will allow authorities to protect children like Devonte trapped in extremely abusive homes.
The Center is working towards funding a study on the barriers to allowing local CPS investigators to search the NCANDS (National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Set) for prior instances of abuse across state lines, and drafting legislation to ensure it becomes a reality.