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Bill would expose child abuse by court-ordered care providers

Court-ordered care providers could no longer hide behind state confidentiality laws to abuse children, under a bill introduced Wednesday in Madison.

Members of the Senate and Assembly children and families' committees wrote the bill as a group.

They said it was spurred by public outrage that followed the murder of 13-month-old Christopher Thomas in Milwaukee, and the torturing of his 2-year-old sister.

The Journal Sentinel learned that a court-ordered kinship care provider had abused the youngsters, even while Milwaukee child welfare workers made repeated visits to their home.

The bureau cited confidentiality laws in refusing to say what happened and it resulted in the paper uncovering other cases in which kids were not being protected.

Senate committee chair Bob Jauch said the public was just as upset about the secrecy as about the murder and abuse themselves.

The new bill requires state officials to release detailed information about children who are seriously abused or neglected in a quick manner, and full summaries would come out within 90 days.

The bill allows information to be withheld if it's in the best interest of a child, but only if a judge or a district attorney approves.

And the public can still seek to have it released.

Jauch says the bill has strong support in both parties, and it could become law as early as next month.