DCS putting Mesa family cleared of child neglect on central registry

MESA, AZ - A Mesa Family cleared of child neglect is once again making headlines. 

This time, because the Department of Child Safety has notified Brian and Janna Bentley that they'll be placed on the central registry for child neglect despite the court's outcome. 

The community that supported them during the court trial, once again screaming outrage on Facebook as a video produced by a watchdog group on this latest DCS move goes viral. 

"To know the Bentley's, is to love the Bentley's, so it doesn't surprise me that there's a lot of interest in their case," said Ryan Tait, a criminal attorney with Tait & Hall who represented Brian and Jana in court against the state's child neglect charges.

The controversy started March 31, 2016, when Brian and Janna Bentley's 8-year-old son, went missing. 

According to a Mesa police report, Janna Bentley noticed her son missing around 9:15 p.m. but assumed he was hiding like usual. 

At 10 p.m. she checked the house and continued to search until 2 a.m. when her husband Brian returned from work.

Brian then helped search for another hour.

According to officers on scene, Janna told them the couple went to bed at 3 a.m. after "God told them he was safe.”

In the report, officers noted police were not called until 7 a.m. the next morning after the Bentley's dropped the other children off at school.

Mesa police recommended charges of neglect, but a court jury found the couple not guilty in August. 

In October, the Bentley's received a letter from DCS claiming there were no safety issues found and the case was closed. 

The Bentley's then filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the state.

The couple's attorney, Ryan Tait, told ABC15 the Bentley's then received a letter from DCS informing them that they would be put on the state's central registry for child neglect. 

"It was a bit of a shock. The Bentley's had a significant amount of closure at the end of the criminal trial, they thought that what they considered to be a nightmare was over," said Tait.

DCS can't comment on cases, but Darren DaRonco, a spokesperson for DCS wrote in an email to ABC15:

"State law requires the department to maintain a central registry of substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect. The confidential information in the registry can only be used for specific purposes such as licensing foster parents, certifying adoptive parents and background checks on people applying for jobs that involve children or vulnerable adults. A person’s name remains in the central registry for 25 years."

DaRonco also stated

"We cannot comment on specific cases due to confidentiality laws. However, we can say that DCS often substantiates reports that do not rise to the level of a child removal. Regardless of whether a substantiated report results in a dependency case, state statute requires us to record the substantiated report in the central registry. Whether a person’s name is placed in the central registry depends on the outcome of a DCS investigation. A police investigation is not a requirement to be placed in the central registry. Parents can challenge DCS’s decision before an administrative judge."

"We believe part of the process here may be an effort to discredit the Bentley' or Retaliation," said Tait.

The Bentley's will challenge the decision at an administrative hearing at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10 at the Arizona Office of Administrative Hearings. 

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