Pursuant to Ark. Code Ann. § 9-28-120, the Department of Human Services provides information to the public on the Department’s web page when a fatality or near fatality of a child is reported to the Child Abuse Hotline under the Child Maltreatment Act, Ark. Code Ann. § 12-18-101 et seq.
The law requires notice of a reported fatality or near fatality of a child to include the age, race, and gender of the child; the date of the child’s death or near fatality incident; allegations or preliminary cause of death or incident; county and type of placement of the child at the time of incident; generic relationship of the alleged offender to the child; agency conducting the investigation; legal action taken by the Department; and services offered or provided by the Department presently and in the past. The notice regarding a child fatality will also include the name of the child.
However, if a law enforcement agency is actively investigating a case that is subject to the notice provisions above and the law enforcement agency reasonably believes that the investigation will result in the subsequent arrest of a person, the Department may elect not provide notice so as not to jeopardize a criminal investigation.
Once the fatality or near fatality is reported to the Child Maltreatment Hotline, the incident will be investigated. The investigation will determine whether the fatality or near fatality resulted from child maltreatment, and information on any prior child maltreatment investigations will be gathered.
Additional information on specific fatality and near fatality investigations than that provided on the Department’s web page is available upon request. Public disclosure of information on fatality and near fatality investigations is governed by the Child Maltreatment Act at Ark. Code Ann. § 12-18-1101 et seq. Information provided will depend on whether the request is related to a fatality or near fatality, and whether the investigation was substantiated for child maltreatment or not. Information that is available upon request includes a summary of previous maltreatment investigations, if any; a summary of the current maltreatment investigation; information about any known criminal charges; and any action taken by the investigating agency, including personnel action and licensing action.
The Department may not release information on any siblings of the child who is the subject of an investigation of a fatality or a near fatality, any attorney-client communications, or any information if release would jeopardize a criminal investigation on the Department’s webpage or in response to a specific request for information on a report of a child fatality or near fatality.