New Castle News

Closer Look

March 12, 2013

Legislators to tackle child abuse , protection issues



A House children and youth committee has already held hearings on six bills that would tackle issues including  improving training for those who might see child abuse, and extending whistle-blower protection to anyone who reports child abuse. The committee has not yet considered any legislation tackling the issue of re-examining the basic question of what is considered abuse in Pennsylvania.

At a hearing last month, Kathy Watson, chairwoman of the House committee on children and youth, said  lawmakers are working on a bill addressing that issue.

Palm said advocates believe the shame brought on by the Sandusky scandal creates a rare opportunity to reform Pennsylvania’s child protection system in ways much more far-reaching than the problems exposed at Penn State.

After the child protection task force was created, the committee put out a “bucket list” of reforms it hoped might come out of the review. It included prevention, improving the way Pennsylvania defines abuse, how the child protection system responds to a report of abuse and improved accountability for both perpetrators and  caseworkers who are supposed to intervene to protect children.

The questions about properly documenting abuse deaths indicates how difficult it is to hold a system accountable when there are questions about the credibility of data  released to the public, Palm said.

“We decided to look at abuse deaths because we thought it should be black and white,” she said, “but in Pennsylvania, it’s not.”


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