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House bills would require recording of child abuse investigations

The Michigan house is considering a package of bills that would require an electronic recording of interviews with kids during a child abuse or neglect investigations.

House bills 4547, 4548 and 4549 would also allow the video recordings to be considered in a probation violation hearing or a hearing to get information removed from the statewide Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry.

The bills' sponsors are state Reps. Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Township and Wyoming, Robert Kosowski, D-Westland and Harvey Santana, D-Detroit.

The bills would also specify who may view the recordings, increase the penalties for unauthorized disclosure of the videos, and how long the videos need to be kept.

“The goal of House Bill 4548 is to help to ensure the safety and welfare of a child by recording their testimony,” Kosowski said. “Having to only testify once will help the child not relive this traumatic incident."

Colin Parks is with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. He has expressed concerns about the package of bills. DHHS has not taken a stance on the bills.

Parks' concerns include the cost of keeping the recordings and children being scared of being recorded.

Parks also says sometimes children disclose their abuse over time, and the video testimony might not reflect the child’s entire experience. 

“We are not saying that recording these is not a best practice,” Parks said. “We really agree with the sponsor that when we can record these effectively, and it is in the child’s best interest we should, but we should certainly look at allowing some exceptions for that.”

He said some exceptions could include when the child asks to not be recorded or if the recordings could compromise the investigation.

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