The state of Nevada is in jeopardy of losing federal funding for failing to comply with the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. This funding cut means hundreds of thousands of dollars in loss for children and families in need. Under federal law, when a child dies because of abuse or neglect, states are required to release these records.
Dr. Wade Horn, the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, says that as the federal overseer of this particular program, it is his obligation to withdraw funds from the state until Nevada is in full compliance with the child abuse law. Dr. Horn explains the reason for this federal law: “States are required in the case of child death or near-death to disclose what happened in that case so the public can hold them accountable. And also so that there can be a public will if there’s a problem in the system to change that system.”
At the request of the federal government, Nevada has developed a ten-point plan to become compliant with the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. This new plan, however, depends on the approval from the Attorney General’s Office, which could take up to eight weeks.
According to Mike Willden, Nevada Division of Health and Human Services, local law enforcement still does not feel that releasing specific information about child abuse deaths is the proper course of action in Nevada.
One example highlighted in the debate involves two-year-old Adacelli Snyder, who died of starvation while being monitored by the Nevada child welfare program. The Las Vegas Sun and Channel 8 Eyewitness News filed a lawsuit demanding the release of her records. Judge Stew Bell later ruled that the records were confidential. In this particular case, Dr. Horn believes that information about death must be disclosed in order to determine liability for the death of this child.
Federal agencies now have a close watch on Nevada to monitor their response to the death or near-death of children in this non-compliant state. When information about child abuse is kept confidential, it is difficult for those responsible to be held accountable. This is the reasoning behind the federal law, which was enacted in 1974 and has been revised since. While it is not illegal for states to violate this law, they risk losing significant federal funding if they fail to comply with federal mandates. Nevada children and families in need have the most to lose when the state refuses to comply with these laws.