CHAPTER 154

FORMERLY HOUSE SUBSTITUTE NO. 1

FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 30

AS AMENDED BY HOUSE AMENDMENTS NO. 4 AND 5

AND SENATE AMENDMENT NO. 1

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 16, DELAWARE CODE, CHAPTER 10, RELATING TO REPORTING OF CASES OF ABUSE TO CHILDREN.

WHEREAS, there are many children in the State of Delaware who are victims of abuse and neglect; and

WHEREAS, there is a compelling need to discover and identify such children; and

WHEREAS, it is in the interests of all the people of Delaware to provide a means whereby such children may be readily identified and protected;

NOW, THEREFORE,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Delaware (two-thirds of all the members elected to each branch thereof concurring therein):

Section 1. Title 16, Delaware Code, Chapter 10, is amended by striking the existing chapter and inserting in lieu thereof a new chapter to read as follows:

"CHAPTER 10. ABUSE TO CHILDREN

§1001. Purpose

It is the purpose of this chapter to provide for comprehensive protective services for abused, neglected, exploited and abandoned children found in the State of Delaware by requiring that reports of such children be made to the appropriate public authorities in an effort to prevent further abuse, neglect or injury and to assist those children and their parents or those persons legally responsible for them in their own homes to aid in overcoming the problems leading to the abuse, neglect and exploitation, thereby strengthening parental care and supervision and enhancing their welfare and preserving the family life whenever feasible.

§1002. Reports required

Any physician, and any other person in the healing arts, including any person licensed to render services in medicine, osteopathy, dentistry, any intern, resident, nurse, school employee, social worker, psychologist, medical examiner or any other person who has reasonable cause to believe that a person who is chronologically under the age of 18 years or appears to be mentally retarded and has had serious physical injury inflicted upon him by other than accidental means, or whose physical or emotional condition gives indication of other serious abuse, or maltreatment, mistreatment, or non-treatment shall make a report in accordance with the provisions of section 1003 of this chapter.

§1003. Nature and content of report; to whom made

Any report required to be made under this Act shall be made to the Division of Social Services of the Department of Health and Social Services and if the person making such a report deems it necessary, that person may also make such report to the local law enforcement agency. An immediate oral report shall be made by telephone or otherwise. Reports, and the contents thereof including a written report, if requested, shall be made in accordance with rules and regulations of the Division of Social Services.

§1004. Duties of the receiving agency

(a) Upon receipt of a report submitted pursuant to this chapter, the Division of Social Services shall immediately in investigate and take necessary action and shall offer protective social services toward preventing further abuses, safeguarding and enhancing the welfare of the abused or neglected person, and preserving family life whenever possible. In performing any of these duties the Division may utilize the facilities of any State or abused or neglected person appears necessary, shall file an appropriate petition seeking removal of such person from the living and authorization to place such person in a suitable facility. If the injury or abuse of such person is so serious that criminal prosecution is indicated, the Division shall, in addition to taking such action under this section as it deems necessary, report its findings to the Department of Justice and the Family Court, or to the police.

(b) The Division shall establish in each county a registry of child protection for the purpose of maintaining a registry of information concerning each case of abuse required to be reported in said county by this chapter. The files shall be confidential subject to the rules and regulations adopted by the Division.

(c) The Division shall keep in the manner prescribed and on forms furnished by it such information as shall be necessary in order to maintain a statewide central register of all reports made in the State.

§ 1005. Immunity from liability

Anyone participating in good faith in the making of a report pursuant to this chapter shall have immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that might otherwise be incurred or imposed and such immunity shall apply to any participation in any judicial proceeding resulting from such report.

No child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof shall, for that reason alone, be considered a neglected child for purposes of this chapter.

§ 1006. Evidence not privileged

The physician-patient privilege, husband-wife privilege, or any privilege except the attorney-client privilege, provided for by professions such as the practice of social work or nursing covered by law or a code of ethics regarding practitioner-Client confidences, both as they relate to the competency of the witness and to the exclusion of evidence, shall not pertain in any civil or criminal litigation in which a person's neglect, abuse, dependency, exploitation or abandonment is in issue nor in any judicial proceeding resulting from a report submitted pursuant to this chapter.

§ 1007. Penalty

Whoever knowingly and wilfully violates any of the provisions of this chapter may be fined not more than one hundred dollars ($100) and/or be imprisoned not more than fifteen (15) days.

Section 2. If any provision of this Act, or of any rule, regulation or order thereunder or the application of such provision to any person or circumstances, shall be held invalid, the remainder of this Act and the application of such provisions of this Act or of such rule, regulation or order to persons or circumstances other than those to which it is held invalid, shall not be affected thereby.

Section 3. Any action, case, prosecution, trial or any other legal proceeding in progress under or pursuant to the prior law, amended by this Act, no matter what the stage of the proceedings, shall be preserved and shall not become illegal or terminated upon the effective date of this Act. For purposes of such proceedings in progress the prior law shall remain in full force and effect.

Approved June 25, 1971.