I9: Mandatory reporter amendment added to budget bill awaits Governor's signature

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- In the wake of high profile abuses of children in Iowa, lawmakers want to know ways to improve Iowa's mandatory reporter law. That law requires people like doctors, teachers and counselors to report signs of child or elder abuse to the state.

An I9 investigation found several "loopholes" in that law.The 2016 deaths of teenagers Sabrina Ray and Natalie Finn drew questions of oversight. Both died of starvation and abuse, allegedly at the hands of adopted parents.

Included in the Health and Human Services budget is an amendment to create a working group to review Iowa's mandatory reporter law and suggest changes.

Republican state representative David Heaton added that amendment.

"I just really felt that this was really important," said Heaton.

Heaton says the executive director of a Des Moines based non-profit called, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, suggested the working group.

"She cited an inconstancy she felt that was out there as far as the training and the skills that the mandatory reporters had," said Heaton.

Executive Director Liz Cox told I9 in a statement that concern started with the Natalie Finn case, saying in part that "...many people, including teachers, school counselors, and neighbors, had made repeated attempts to notify the Iowa Department of Human Services of neglect and starvation of Natalie months before her death... We believe the legislative work group will foster collaboration among the many agencies and professionals impacted by Mandatory Reporter code..."

The amendment has bi-partisan support.

"I think its a positive sign," said state Democratic representative Art Staed.

Staed says he not only likes the idea of creating a working group but says he wants to be part of it.

"This is a bi-partisan thing to make sure that children are protected and out dependent elderly are protected from abuse," said Staed.

The working group would be required to issue its recommendations by December 15th. That budget bill right now is awaiting Governor Reynolds signature. A spokesperson with the Governor's office tells I9 she hasn't yet reviewed the bill and in turn won't be commenting on it.