Plans on Creating Statewide Panel to Look at Additional Reforms
Greensburg, PA – State Senator Kim Ward (R-39), Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, announced today that she is introducing new legislation to expand the responsibility of mandated reporting of child abuse to institutions of higher learning, as well as increasing the penalties for failure to report child abuse.
The Senate Aging and Youth Committee has been examining Pennsylvania’s definition of child abuse and mandated reporting of child abuse throughout this past summer. Public hearings were held in August and October. In the wake of recent events unfolding at Penn State University, Senator Ward felt that urgency was needed legislatively to include Universities and other institutions of higher learning in the mandated child abuse reporting requirements.
“The allegations regarding child abuse at Penn State shake every decent person to the core,” said Ward. “At the very least, the state can immediately require that University officials now be required by law to report suspected child abuse in concert to the standards already in place through K-12 schools statewide,” she continued.
Ward noted that mandated reporters of suspected child abuse – health care workers, educators, and others—are key elements in the state’s child protection efforts and were responsible for 77 percent of all referrals for substantiated child abuse in 2010. In 2009, Pennsylvania’s rate of substantiated child abuse was 1.4 per 1,000 children and the national rate was 9.3 per 1,000 children.
In addition to the new mandated reporting requirement, a second bill introduced by Ward will increase the penalties for failure to report suspected child abuse. The bill will make it a first degree misdemeanor for failure to report in a first violation, and a third degree felony for second and subsequent violations.
“These two bills will expand protections for children immediately. We also will be creating a Child Protection and Accountability Commission to evaluate the overall system of child protection between state and county agencies,” declared Ward.
Contact: Tom Aikens