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Legal challenge targets how names are added to AZ registry of child neglectors, abusers

The Goldwater Institute wants a judge to raise the standard used by Arizona’s child welfare agency to decide if people go on a central registry of neglectors and abusers.

The group has filed legal challenges on behalf of a Tucson mom who in 2020 left her kid and a friend to play at a park while she went grocery shopping.

Court records say Tucson police accused the mom of adding to the delinquency of minors. She took a diversion class and prosecutors dropped the charges.

But the Department of Child Safety still wants her on the abuser list after their review found probable cause that she neglected her son.

Tim Sandefur, vice president of litigation for the Goldwater Institute, said using a standard of proof lower than what civil and criminal cases require tramples due process rights.      

“By placing somebody on the central registry, you’re punishing that person. And so to punish a person based on mere suspicion is unconstitutional,” he said.

Names put on this list remain for 25 years. The Goldwater Institute also wants the mom’s name off of it while it appeals her case.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.