State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Child protection laws strengthened, and more is coming

Written by Mary Wilson | Jan 6, 2014 5:00 AM
Thumbnail image for Harrisburg Capitol building with fountain

Work remains for state lawmakers on child protection legislation, even though ten new laws meant to make the commonwealth safer for children have been signed by the governor. They include a new definition of child abuse – more specific, more comprehensive – as well as new tools for flagging abusers.

The legislation came in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. But Bucks County District Attorney Dave Heckler, who chaired a panel to scour the state’s child protection laws for problems, said there’s more to come.

"Some of these bills have done some of the most important things," Heckler said, "but there is a host of other work yet to be done, and it’s my understanding that closure -- aside from a few issues -- has pretty well been reached. So they should be flowing to the governor within the next months, certainly."

One of the outstanding pieces of legislation has great relevance to the Sandusky case: it would clarify who must report suspected child abuse and how they have to do it.
Child welfare advocates are watching the bill closely, and say it has stalled recently in the Legislature.

"To tell you the truth, we wrote one set of recommendations," Heckler said, referring to the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection. "They’ve been parsed out into a whole lot of bills. I would have to have a scorecard to know the players at this point."

The raft of proposals already signed into law by the governor will be effective in 2015.

Published in State House Sound Bites

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