The state House of Representatives voted unanimously to approve legislation sponsored by state Rep. Bernie O’Neil, R-29, which would require courts in custody proceedings to consider whether a child has been identified as a victim of child abuse by a person seeking custody or member of that person’s household.
House Bill 414 was drafted by O’Neill based on the recommendationsofthePennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection that was created by the General Assemblytoconductacomprehensive review of the laws and procedures relating to the health and safety of children.
Specifically, House Bill 414 fulfills the task force recommendations by requiring that the court be provided with information from Department of Public Welfare regarding whether the child has been identified as a victim of abuse and whether a parent has been identified as the perpetrator of that abuse, under the Child Protective Services Law; requiring that the court be provided with information from the DPW regarding the type of services made available to the family under the Child Protective Services Law; and requiring that a court consider whether there is an indicated or founded report of child abuse by a party or a member of the party’s household when determining the best interests of the child. Currently, there are 16 factors to weigh when determining the best interests of the child. If approved, this would be an additional factor.
“rltimately, my bill is about ensuring courts and judges have access to information related to records of child abuse and neglect, so that they can act in the best interest of the child when awarding custody and make a decision that would prevent any further harm to a child,” said O’Neill in a press release.