The bill creates a task force on the collection and security of digital images of evidence of child abuse or neglect (task force). The task force is directed to examine the existing system of collecting, documenting, and securing digital images of evidence of suspected child abuse or neglect when employees of county departments of human or social services (county employees) are assessing allegations of child abuse or neglect, to study best practices for collecting, documenting, and securing digital images of evidence of suspected child abuse or neglect, and to make recommendations to the governor, the state department of human services, the child welfare training academy, the Colorado association of chiefs of police, the county sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado medical society, and the general assembly for administrative and legislative changes.
The task force includes the executive director of the state department of human services or his or her designee, the child protection ombudsman, an attorney representing the office of the child's representative, an attorney representing the respondent parents' counsel, and 7 members appointed by the governor, 5 members appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives, and 5 members appointed by the president of the senate. The qualifications for the appointed members are specified in the bill. The members of the task force must be appointed on or before September 1, 2016.
The bill specifies the topics that the task force must study, including the statutes, rules, practices, and standards that govern:
- How a county employee who has open involvement with a child takes, maintains, and disseminates digital images of a child to document the abuse or neglect or the absence of abuse or neglect; and
- How, in any situation of open involvement with a county department, a county employee takes digital images of a child.
The task force must also study:
- Whether criteria or standards that county employees follow when documenting evidence of child abuse or neglect through digital images balance the need to collect evidence with the need to protect the privacy and constitutional rights of both parents and of children;
- The safeguards used by a county employee to ensure the best interests of children when documenting evidence of child abuse or neglect through digital imagery;
- The role of law enforcement agencies in conducting investigations jointly with county departments pursuant to cooperative agreements and whether there are best practices addressed in those cooperative agreements relating to the collecting, sharing, and handling of digital images;
- How county departments, law enforcement agencies, and medical professionals collaborate during assessments or investigations of suspected child abuse or neglect to collect, transmit, and share evidence, including digital images, without slowing down the process and while ensuring that there is no impediment to the child's safety;
- Whether the statute authorizing the taking of color photographs of children should be amended to include all types of digital images and what precautions should be taken regarding the transmission and storage of digital images of children;
- The laws and policies that govern the taking of digital images of children on personal or county-owned cell phones, cameras, or other equipment and safeguards in place to guide county employees on how to take, maintain, and disseminate digital images;
- The laws and policies governing the audiotaping and videotaping of child interviews; and
- The best practices followed in other states or recommended by national child welfare experts for child welfare caseworkers collecting evidence of suspected child abuse or neglect through digital imagery to document evidence or absence of evidence of child abuse or neglect; collaborating with and sharing in the dissemination of evidence with law enforcement agencies and medical professionals and any other agencies legally authorized in the investigation of child abuse or neglect; referring a child for medical examinations; and maintaining, storing, and safeguarding digital images of children.
The task force shall submit an initial written report on its findings and progress to the governor, the state department of human services, the child welfare training academy, the Colorado association of chiefs of police, the county sheriffs of Colorado, the Colorado medical society, the joint budget committee, and the house public health care and human services committee and the senate health and human services committee, or any successor committees, on or before December 1, 2017. The task force shall submit a final written report with its findings and recommendations for administrative changes and legislative changes, if any, to those same officials and entities on or before December 1, 2018.
The task force is repealed, effective July 1, 2019.