TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Fred H. Madden which would provide the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) access to the State’s sex offender database was unanimously approved by the Senate today.
“DYFS needs to defend our State’s kids against all threats, including those from sexual predators,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “By giving DYFS agents access to the tools they need to quickly identify dangerous sex offenders early on, and remove kids from harm’s way, we will be empowering the agency to accomplish its mission.”
“Megan’s Law has quickly become an invaluable shield to protect children from sex offenders,” said Senator Madden, D-Gloucester and Camden. “Since it was first adopted a little over ten years, it has continually evolved to meet the needs of law enforcement officers, and to promote safety in our neighborhoods. This bill would further evolve the initial neighborhood notification intent of Megan’s Law to allow DYFS caseworkers to make an educated, quick decision when it comes to the welfare of our kids.”
The bill, S-1248, would allow DYFS to access the State’s sex offender database established under Megan’s Law for use in carrying out the agency’s responsibilities. Under current law, only law enforcement groups can access the Megan’s Law sexual offender database. The sponsors contend that Megan’s Law access will allow DYFS to take advantage of the State’s resources in classifying and identifying sex offenders in order to better protect children from potential future attacks.
“Both Megan’s Law and DYFS were intended to protect our kids from lurking dangers, but there has been a disconnect, where one hand was forbidden from knowing what the other hand was doing,” said Senator Madden. “Now we’re combining these individual child safety initiatives to promote the highest safety standard possible for children. By granting DYFS access to the State’s sex offender information, we may be able to avert many potentially dangerous and mentally scarring episodes for kids from ever taking place.”
“Under the current system, many times DYFS caseworkers may not be able to uncover sexual abuse until it’s too late, but with this legislation, they would be able to pinpoint offenders with a history of recidivism before they strike,” said Senator Vitale. “The damage of sexual abuse and assault can last a lifetime, and in the case of Megan Kanka, those lives can sometimes be cut tragically short by desperate sexual predators. We need to give DYFS the tools to act proactively to protect kids from tragedy.”
The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.