Child abuse database launched

Registry holds names of those convicted in cases of crimes against children

GREENFIELD — A database that launched this week lists the names of people convicted of child abuse in the last five years.

State officials hope the new child abuse and neglect registry will become the tool parents use to ensure their children are cared for by someone trustworthy.

The online registry is similar to one listing convicted sex offenders.

Parents can search people by name at public.courts.in.gov (click on the link for the child abuse registry).

A person’s name will appear in the search results if they’ve been convicted of child neglect, battery or sexual assault against a child or child selling — crimes that statistics show are being reported more regularly throughout the state.

Child abuse and neglect cases are up nearly 20 percent statewide, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services.

In 2016, the agency handled 241 cases in which a Hancock County child had been neglected or abused, compared with 186 cases in 2015, according to department records.

The site is maintained by the state’s division of court administrators and is updated every 30 days. It lists the name of the offender and the county where they were found guilty. It also includes the person’s age, their last known city of residence, a photograph and a description of their crime.

Currently, the site only shows convictions dating back to 2012. That means the names of some 60 defendants from Hancock County currently appear on the site because of child abuse and neglect cases. Another roughly 40 sex offenders from Hancock County appear on the new registry.

The database was inspired by a case out of Elkhart County. Nineteen-month-old Kirk Coleman died in October 2014 after suffering a brain injury while in the care of a babysitter who had a history of child abuse. Officials say the woman had been convicted of child neglect in 2006.

The boy’s family said that had they known the babysitter’s criminal history, they would not have left the child in her care.

The bill proposing the registry passed the house and senate unanimously during the 2016 session. It was signed into law by then-Gov. Mike Pence in March 2016.

Caregivers are often invovled in crimes against children, said Annette Craycraft, director of East Central Indiana Court-Appointed Special Advocates.

CASA volunteers serve as advocates for children who have been wrapped up in a legal case. The advocate conveys to a judge what they believe is the child’s best interest.

Often, the children advocates represent victims of crimes, harmed or neglected by an adult in their life, Craycraft said. Typically, that adult was someone who was supposed to help care for the child, to keep them safe and protected.

That could mean a babysitter, new friend or neighbor, she said.

Schools, hospitals and daycare centers typically perform background checks on potential employees who might work with children, but parents don’t usually have those resources, Craycraft said. A database should give parents some peace of mind, she said.

The child-abuse registry should help prevent those convicted of crimes against children from re-offending, Prosecutor Brent Eaton said.

He pointed to the sex-offender registry as an example. Since its inception, law enforcement and residents alike have used the online database as a means of keeping tabs on sex offenders in hopes of keeping their neighborhoods safe. Police strictly supervise those whose names appear on the list, and parents have access to it to  keep their kids away from people who might be dangerous, he said.

As the child-abuse registry becomes more well-known, it could have the same effect, Eaton said.

“The goal is to minimize the possibility for people to re-offend,” he said. “It will be a good tool for people to look and see if this is somebody who can be trusted with children.”

Use the registry

Parents can search people by name at public.courts.in.gov (click on the link for the child abuse registry).

A person’s name will appear in the search results if they’ve been convicted of child neglect, battery or sexual assault against a child or child selling — crimes that statistics show are being reported more regularly throughout the state.

Author photo
Caitlin VanOverberghe is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3237 or cvanoverberghe@greenfieldreporter.com.