The Arc of New Jersey joins hundreds of thousands of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their family members in thanking the Legislature and Governor Chris Christie for passing and signing S825/A2038 into law. This important piece of legislation establishes a statewide registry of caregivers who have abused or neglected individuals with intellectual or other developmental disabilities. It is estimated that there are more than 160,000 individuals with developmental disabilities in New Jersey.
A great deal of the suspected abuse and neglect of individuals with developmental disabilities is hard to prosecute. Individuals, even when they do report incidents, typically do so days or weeks afterwards, making it very difficult to conduct an appropriate investigation and collect evidence. Thus, although provider agencies can terminate a staff member's employment if their own investigation finds the abuse was substantiated, it is often difficult to provide police with the needed evidence for a criminal conviction. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for the State and provider agencies to regulate the future hiring of individuals who have a substantiated allegation of abuse and neglect on their record.
"As a parent of a young woman with intellectual and developmental disabilities, this registry represents a significant peace of mind for my family" stated Walter Bender, President of The Arc of New Jersey. "All individuals with developmental disabilities and their families need to know that everything possible is being done to protect them from harm and keep abusers from ever working with vulnerable individuals."
"The Arc of New Jersey is grateful that the legislature and the Governor have persevered to help us make a good system of care even better" stated Thomas Baffuto, Executive Director of The Arc of New Jersey. "Service providers strive to provide safe, empowering, enriching environments for individuals with developmental disabilities. While the creation of an abuser registry certainly will not eliminate all abuse against individuals with developmental disabilities, we feel that it is an important piece of the puzzle and will go a long way in helping to ensure better protections for this very vulnerable population."
The Arc of New Jersey would like to thank the sponsors of the Bill, Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3) and Assemblyman Angel Fuentes (D-5), for their leadership on this issue.