Cor­bett signs child abuse pro­tec­tion bills

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we’ll be able to re­spond bet­ter,” Cor­bett said. “We’re go­ing to un­der­stand how to re­spond to it. We’re go­ing to have train­ing for those who are re­spon­ders, who are re­porters, as to how they have to re­port. Things that were not clear be­fore, the Leg­is­la­ture is try­ing to make clear to­day. So I think this is a good step for­ward.”

Cor­bett said it wasthe re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery ci­ti­zen to be ob­ser­vant and to pass any in­for­ma­tion they may have along to the proper au­thor­i­ties, in or­der to help pro­tect chil­dren.

“We have a re­spon­si­bil­ity, whether they’re our chil­dren or not, to pro­tect them,” he said. “And th­ese bills give us the op­por­tu­nity to do a bet­ter job. We know, un­for­tu­nately, there are peo­ple out there that could be de­scribed no other way than sheer mon­sters, who will take the in­no­cence of chil­dren for their own sat­is­fac­tion.”

Cor­bett said the unan­i­mous sup­port from both sides of the aisle, along with those in at­ten­dance for the event, were united in the fight to pro­tect chil­dren.

“To­day we are closer to meet­ing one of our great­est obli­ga­tions,” Stephens said, “pro­tect­ing our chil­dren from abuse and en­sur­ing those who we trust with their care ful­fill their obli­ga­tions. Since the task force on child pro­tec­tion de­liv­ered its re­port to the Gen­eral As­sem­bly, we’ve en­acted count­less re­forms to im­prove Penn­syl­va­nia’s child pro­tec­tion laws.”

Stephens gave spe­cial recog­ni­tion to two of the bills signed dur­ing the event, House Bill 436 and Se­nate Bill 21, which he de­scribed as “crit­i­cal to en­sur­ing the cal­vary comes run­ning when a child is sus­pected of hav­ing been abused.”

“Se­nate Bill 21 en­sures that vir­tu­ally any­one who works with chil­dren in a pro­fes­sional or vol­un­teer ca­pac­ity, in­clud­ing school per­son­nel, per­son­nel at col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, youth sports coaches, child care providers, re­li­gious lead­ers, physi­cians and other health care work­ers, so­cial ser­vices work­ers, law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, li­brar­i­ans, emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vice providers and em­ploy­ees and in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors for each of those en­ti­ties are re­quired to re­port sus­pected child abuse.

“House Bill 436,” Stephens con­tin­ued, “adds at­tor­neys for or­ga­ni­za­tions car­ing for chil­dren to this list of re­porters, while pre­serv­ing the at­tor­ney client priv­i­lege, bring­ing Penn­syl­va­nia in line with a ma­jor­ity of states across the U.S.”

Stephens said the bill also dra­mat­i­cally in­creases penal­ties for those who fail to re­port sus­pected abuse from a mis­de­meanor of­fense to a felony. He later stated that chil­dren rely on those en­trusted to pro­tect them to pro­vide their voice for them, es­pe­cially dur­ing times of sus­pected abuse, oth­er­wise “the abuser re­mains free.”

Vereb called the new laws se­ri­ous leg­is­la­tion that will give re­porters the abil­ity to re­port abuse when they see it.

Wat­son said mak­ing the pro­tec­tion of chil­dren is “para­mount.”

Af­ter the event, Harper said she was proud of the work law­mak­ers did in get­ting the bills passed.

“Let me tell you some­thing shock­ing,” Harper said. “A few years ago when we looked at the sta­tis­tics of Penn­syl­va­nia ver­sus other states for child abuse, we dis­cov­ered that ap­par­ently we didn’t have a lot of it. Then we re­al­ized that we were not re­port­ing enough things that were ac­tu­ally child abuse, child sex­ual abuse. We weren’t re­quir­ing enough peo­ple to give those re­ports. Sowhatthe­bills­didthis­morn­ing was ex­pand the in­verse of peo­ple who are re­quired by law to re­port sus­pected child abuse and who will go to jail if they don’t re­port it. In that way we’re go­ing to be able to catch th­ese guys, be­fore they hit 100 chil­dren. What some of th­ese preda­tors do in a life­time, 100 kids or more, we’re go­ing to catch them early on, be­cause we’re re­quir­ing more adults to speak up if they even sus­pect that there’s child abuse go­ing on.”

Fol­low Eric Devlin on Twit­ter @ Eric_Devlin.

Mont­gomery Me­dia staff photo/ Bob Raines

State Rep Kate Harper, R-61 and State Rep Todd Stephens, R-151, con­grat­u­late Gov. Tom Cor­bett, who has just fin­ished sign­ing leg­is­la­tion at the Am­bler AreaYMCAto fur­ther pro­tect chil­dren fromabuse Apr 15.

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