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Tennessee bill would prevent anonymous child abuse reports

If it becomes law, it would allow the accused to find out who reported them.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Tennessee bill would prevent the Department of Children's Services from accepting anonymous child abuse claims. It would also allow the accused to know who reported them.

Rep. Clay Doggett (R-Pulaski), and Sen. Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), are sponsoring the legislation and believe this could help prevent harassment of those who are accused. 

"Under this bill, a person who has been accused of child abuse or neglect or child sexual abuse may petition the court with jurisdiction over the alleged abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse to order the department to reveal the identity of the person who reported the alleged child abuse or neglect or child sexual abuse," the bill's summary stated. 

Virginia Stallworth, the executive director of the Memphis Child Advocacy Center, said anonymous reports are important in allowing people to come forward without facing retaliation. 

"We all have a legal and moral obligation to make reports in good faith of any reasonable suspicions of child abuse or neglect," Stallworth said. 

The General Assembly's Fiscal Review Committee said this could mean a decrease in investigations and the number of children receiving services. It also said this could increase costs to DCS "due to an increase in the length of custody stays, trauma treatment services, and intensive prevention services."

"If we take anonymous reporting off the table that is going to result in more kids who need us not getting to us for help," Stallworth said. 

Stallworth said the main issue here is the children who are abused that might not receive the help they need if this legislation passes. She said investigators know how to work with anonymous reports to help abused children. 

"There's a lot of different tools investigators have for corroborating detail, getting information with which to make decisions," Stallworth said. 

The bill is headed to the House Children and Family Affairs Subcommittee Tuesday morning.