“There’s nothing we can do in those situations,” Lawmakers want stricter registry for working with children

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OKLAHOMA - A loophole in state legislation could mean someone prosecuted for child abuse is taking care of your child.

Now, there's a push for more transparency on child abuse registry.

Lawmakers and child advocates are hoping for stricter rules on who is hired to take care of Oklahoma's children.

"In a state where just over 10 percent of child abuse cases are actually prosecuted, that leaves 90 percent of these cases where it warranted an investigation, something was found to have happened but no one will ever really know," said A.J. Griffin, Republican senator for District 20.

That's because a district attorney may not see enough evidence to pursue the child abuse case and, therefore, won't show up on a background check when a potential employee is hired to take care of a child.

"It's just always been a little frustrating and concerning that there's nothing we can do in those situations when a parent has lost rights to their own children, but then they are still caring for others,” said Christine Marsh, the director of child abuse and trauma services for Family & Children Services in Tulsa.

She was a witness for an interim study recently released that shows gaps in the child abuse registry enacted in Oklahoma called Joshua's List in 2010.

It was created after a toddler was suffocated while at daycare.

"It works to keep those individuals with substantiations of abuse and neglect from working in child care facilities,” said Mark Beutler with Oklahoma Department of Human Services.

There are more than 200 people on the registry, but it only applies to DHS licensed child care workers.

"It didn't apply to all providers of children, so we found there are certain provider of categories that aren't required to either check the list or submit names to be considered to be put on the list,” Griffin said.

So, now, Griffin is hoping to amend Joshua's List to include those who have substantial evidence of abuse but may not have been convicted.

"It will protect due process so individuals won't be placed on a do not hire list when it's inappropriate or they haven't received due process, but we need to use that administrative function in order to better protect kids,” Griffin said.

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