The legislation, House Bill 393, was filed Tuesday afternoon. State Representative Chaz Beasley, who is proposing the new law, says it’s already getting a lot of support because it’s meant to protect children.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A state lawmaker is proposing major changes just weeks after an NBC Charlotte Defenders investigation into child abuse cases.

NBC Charlotte found that about 40 percent of the time, reported abuse is never investigated by the Department of Social Services in Mecklenburg County.

It’s all because of a possible loophole in the law. Child rights advocates say some cases can be turned away if the abuser is not legally defined as a caretaker.

Currently, the definitions include the child’s mother, father, and other family members. A new bill would make it easier to investigate others such as a parent’s boyfriend or girlfriend.

The legislation, House Bill 393, was filed Tuesday afternoon. State Representative Chaz Beasley, who is proposing the new law, says it’s already getting a lot of support because it’s meant to protect children.

“It’s been overwhelming positive and overwhelmingly bipartisan,” Beasley told NBC Charlotte.

Beasley spoke to NBC Charlotte through Facetime from Raleigh on Tuesday. He says the newly filed bill meant to protect children is bringing Democrats and Republicans together.

“It really also came from your reporting, we looked into it and found this was a loophole,” Beasley told NBC Charlotte.

NBC Charlotte found that out of more than 18,000 reports of abuse or neglect in 2018, DSS only investigated about 11,000. Bob Simmons, a child rights advocate, said North Carolina law limits the agency’s ability to investigate if the offender is not legally defined as a caretaker.

“A boyfriend who is coming into a house, who under the law is not a caretaker,” Simmons previously told NBC Charlotte.

The director of DSS in Mecklenburg County acknowledged the state could be doing more.

“I would say no state in the Union is doing a good enough job to protect children,” said Peggy Eagan, director of Mecklenburg County DSS.

NBC Charlotte also highlighted the case of Jordyn Dumont in Gaston County, who was murdered by her mother’s boyfriend in 2016.

Now, Representative Beasley is proposing a new bill that would expand the state’s definition of caretaker to include boyfriends and girlfriends.
“This would make it clear if you are an adult who is in a dating relationship with someone, then if you are taking care of their child, you are a caretaker,” Beasley said.

Mecklenburg County DSS released a statement saying “ expanding the caretaker definition could allow Departments of Social Services (DSS) to investigate more situations of alleged child abuse that do not currently meet the requirements for DSS involvement”.

The statement went onto to say state lawmakers would also need to consider funding and resources with more cases for DSS to investigate.

Article available at https://www.wcnc.com/article/news/investigations/investigators/lawmaker-proposes-changes-after-defenders-investigation-reveals-many-reports-of-child-abuse-not-investigated/275-06de3553-1a24-4d98-9c23-ac2f64491d29