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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Lawmakers Considering Bill Barring Anonymous Child Abuse Reporting

Montana Legislature Senate chambers.
Nick Mott
Montana Public Radio
Montana Legislature Senate chambers.

Montana lawmakers heard a bill on Wednesday that would ban anonymous reporting of child abuse allegations. House Bill 356 would prohibit investigations into child abuse allegations if they are reported by anonymous sources, and would require people reporting abuse to give their name and address.

Republican Rep. Dennis Lenz of Billings is sponsoring the bill. He said people can already report child abuse confidentially, but he wants a record of who filed the abuse claim.

“I don’t want people to end up in the system unnecessarily," Lenz said.

A group of parents spoke in support, saying the policy would discourage people from filing false or retaliatory accusations of child abuse. Others said it might stop some people from reporting legitimate child abuse claims.

Kelsen Young with the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said there are benefits and consequences to anonymous reporting, and that there is no easy answer to this issue. She did however note that anonymity may ensure reporting in some cases.

“Often the people who are closest to this situation are the least likely to be able to safely report," Young said.

Several others spoke in opposition, including the director of the Child and Family Services Division at the state health department, two county attorneys and the Cascade County sheriff.

Lawmakers have not yet voted on the bill.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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