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General Assembly approves additional child protection bills
In the wake of troubling instances of abuse at Penn State, lawmakers in Harrisburg have placed a renewed emphasis on strengthening child protection laws over the past two years. After enacting a significant number of meaningful reforms in 2013, the General Assembly recently took action on a second wave of child protection measures that will ensure any instances of abuse are properly identified and prosecuted.
To ensure cases of abuse do not slip through the cracks of the legal system, I supported passage of a law to help identify children in need of general protective services by establishing a Statewide Database of Protective Services. The database will include pertinent information regarding reports of child abuse, including any legal actions initiated, the nature of the occurrence and information relating to the subject of the report. Provisions are also included to ensure any false reports can be expunged.
An additional measure is designed to ensure professionals who regularly interact with children are trained to spot signs of abuse. Under current law, school employees are required to undergo training regarding child abuse recognition and reporting every five years. Legislation that was recently signed into law will expand this requirement to include all mandated reporters of child abuse, including doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and other professionals who are responsible for ensuring the welfare of children.
Two new laws will also provide funding for children’s advocacy centers, which are often the first line of defense for endangered children. These centers provide medical care and mental health treatment for victims, offering the best avenue to protect at-risk children and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice. I supported passage of legislation that creates a grant program to provide additional funding for training of mandated reporters and related child abuse costs. Another new law transfers unused money in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) vehicle license plate fund to the Commission on Crime and Delinquency to provide grants to children’s advocacy centers.
These reforms come on the heels of noteworthy child protection bills enacted last year, including measures to fortify existing child protection statutes, improve the investigation process for child abuse claims, strengthen mandatory reporting laws and enhance penalties for certain offenses against children.
While these reforms are certainly a step in the right direction, lawmakers must continue to explore new ways to protect young people. The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection offered a number of suggestions that have been enacted, but others await action in the General Assembly. More information on child protection measures that have been enacted or are under consideration is available online at childprotection.state.pa.us.
World Book Night
Escaping into a thoughtful and well-written book is one of the best forms of education and stress relief for millions of adults. On April 23, volunteers throughout nation are encouraged to help share the gift of reading by passing out approximately 500,000 free paperback books in recognition of World Book Night U.S. The event is designed to spread the passion for reading with adults who read rarely or not at all.
Local residents can learn more about how to participate in World Book Night by visiting worldbooknight.org.
For more information on issues of importance to Pennsylvania residents, please visit my website at senatorbrubaker.com.
Sen. Brubaker represents the Lititz area in Harrisburg. His column appears weekly in the commentary section of the Record Express. His Lititz office is located at 301 E. Main St. To contact him, call 627-0036.
For more information on issues of importance to Lancaster and Chester County residents, visit his website at senatorbrubaker.com.