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House panel OKs proposed ‘Maya’s Law’ to give child abuse victims more privacy in interviews

Imagine being abused by another person, and when telling your story to a cop, your abuser is present during the interview.

Absurd, right? Also intimidating, coercive, and pretty ineffective at getting good information to pursue a criminal case.

House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee 3/17/22

But a similar scenario can happen in Minnesota if the abused person is a minor. Minnesota is the only state not granting children the right to be interviewed separately from their guardians when reporting abuse — even if the guardian is the alleged abuser.

Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL-Roseville) sponsors HF3971, the so-called “Maya’s Law,” which would ensure interviews by child welfare investigators take place outside the presence of an alleged abuser.

To have children provide their stories to investigators with potential abusers present “is incredibly problematic,” she said. “It does not allow us to really get to the heart of what’s going on to keep children protected.”

The House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee unanimously approved the bill Thursday and sent it to the House Human Services Finance and Policy Committee. There is no Senate companion.

The bill would help people like Maya White.

She is now 15 years old, but when she was in sixth grade, White found the courage to report her father’s abusive acts. As a result, White said she was “immediately faced with another scary reality.”

“Not only did I have to tell my story to complete strangers, but I was also forced to do so in front of my abuser,” she said.

As she was telling her story to investigators, White was continuously worried she would be forced to go home with her abusive father.

“This has got to change,” she said. “No child should have to go through the same experience that I did.”

The bill would:

  • require a child interview to occur outside the presence of, and prior to any interview of, the alleged offender or parent, legal custodian, guardian, or school official;
  • specify that a child interview may proceed without a parent or guardian’s permission; and
  • require that an interview of a child in foster care who is at least 5 years old take place outside the presence of the foster parent.

A minor who makes a maltreatment report or assists in a maltreatment investigation or assessment would be immune from civil or criminal liability that might otherwise result from making the report or assisting in the assessment or investigation.

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