Easy to get added to Vermont’s child abuse registry, but very hard to get off

By E.M. “Bud” Allen, Esq. 

 The Vermont Department for Children and Families maintains a list, a registry of those that the Department has “substantiated” for abusing or neglecting children. This is not a particularly exclusive list, in that roughly 25,000 names are on the list, about 5% of all adult Vermonters. 

Bud Allen

And it’s not particularly difficult to be added to the list. All it takes is for a caseworker and his or her supervisor to determine that the available information regarding the subject of their inquiry is such that a “reasonable person” could conclude that abuse or neglect had taken place. Note that this standard of proof is not only lower than the “preponderance of evidence” standard (i.e. 51%) used in our civil and juvenile courts, it is effectively the reverse of the standard used in our criminal courts. In DCF’s system, the subject is substantiated if there is a reasonable doubt as to his or her innocence.  

This low standard of proof combined with bureaucratic timidity makes it very easy to be added to the registry. But it is very difficult to get taken off the registry.  

While one is on the registry, one is effectively disqualified from employment in a wide variety of jobs (e.g. health care, education, law enforcement) regardless of qualifications and extremely limited in one’s role as a parent. To be sure, there are people on the registry who have consciously, repeatedly abused children and others who have seriously neglected children in their care. However, there are also people on the registry who were just regular parents confronted with extraordinary circumstances. Not surprisingly, most of those on the registry could not afford legal counsel. 

The Department calls the process that places a Vermonter on the registry “substantiation,” but the evidence that supports that action is far from substantial. Ask your representative to support legislation to make this system more reliable and fair.  

The author has been practicing law in Chittenden County since 1978. He is a former assistant attorney general and public defender. 

Categories: Commentary

4 replies »

  1. The first rule about the VT of ne’er-do-wells list is, we never talk about the list. To ask about it is to be included in the list. To complain is to be put on the list. I bet the author, is now on that list just for bringing attention to that list . Any Questions? The ultimate decision to let you keep or loose your child is left to a young collage grad. And if (in most cases) she does not like you say good by to your kids.

    Don’t forget for every kid they get, they get special perks. We mustn’t forget about the money the state gets for what they take from you. I think this even includes animals.

    Here you must prove innocence, as you are already guilty, with their “substantiation”. . Just think, many of the reasons are due to things like objection to teachers teaching kids sex stuff, or teaching your kids yourself about the dangers of drugs or even what sex they are by GOD’s standard. Managing your kid i.e. corporal punishment will do it too. How dare you make a child a worthy member of society.

    VT has some really screwy ways of doing things. Maybe just maybe someone other than me will remember that young woman who shot her relatives AND the social worker who had her name put on that list as well as took her kid…. Just saying this kind of stuff happens with the STATE pulling these Gestapo tactics. What can yiou expect.

    As a last thought. Even with NO evidence, you cannot, because VT is a state full of non profits that work for the state , get a job much less keep it. I have seen this happen to a cousin here in VT and it all had to do with an abusive husband who was unhappy my cousin, who would not let him do some very unhusbandly things. He called SRS and now she, to this day, is all but handed a GET OUT OF VT Now card, no, not a good thing. Took her kid and ruined her life. In the end it was the husband who was the abuser but her name is still on that list. They refuse to remove a name once it is there and he still has the kid.

  2. If the State of Vermont says it’s legal, so be it. No law proposed, written, voted on or passed. VT is a wonderful bureaucracy that knows all, judges all. If a 20-something college “grad” (who studied how to hate America) doesn’t like a mother or father, well then the best way to deal with them is to exert one’s power. That’s how it’s done.
    I’m sorry to have to point out the author’s naivete, I believe it is more than reasonable to say that each an every case is illegitimate. Because Ms. Smith, the young green haired social worker who came to your door recently, didn’t like the way you spoke; your facial expression; that the kid’s toys were all over the living room floor. This from a single millenial who can barely feed herself never mind a small, completely dependent human child.
    Well before the recent shamdemic, I can tell you from experience, Vermont is known in the NATIONAL legal community for being CORRUPT. Out of state lawyers do not come here, do not take cases here, because it is “so corrupt” here. And that is a quote.
    And now let’s talk about the money. Thousands of dollars are accrued by the state, given by the federal government, for each confiscated child. Der Schtadt LOVES their cut.
    They get away with these atrocities, in the dark. No accountability. And until it happens to YOU you never knew about it, or refused to believe it.
    If you don’t know that there’s an enemy, that the enemy exists, how do you stop it?
    Thank you for this piece. It’s a start.

  3. This is unconstitutional and criminal.This needs to be rectified now !