Sweeping Child Protection Enhancements Signed into Law

Harrisburg – The two-year effort to strengthen Pennsylvania’s child protection laws reached a major milestone today with the enactment of 10 bills aimed at preventing child abuse and punishing perpetrators, Senator Jake Corman (R-Bellefonte) announced.

 The bills are part of a bipartisan package of legislation introduced following the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, created by the passage of Senate Resolution 250 in December 2011. As Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Corman helped shepherd the bills through the General Assembly.

“The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection did a great job bringing to light where the Commonwealth can improve in preventing abuse crimes against children,” said Corman.  “A lot of work has been done over the last two years and I believe these bills are a good first step in changing the way Pennsylvania identifies and addresses child abuse.”

Governor Corbett signed the following bills into law:

Senate Bill 23 updates the definition of “perpetrator” and broadens the definition of “person responsible for a child’s welfare” to include any individual who has direct or regular contact with a child via schools, the workplace, churches and other organizations, regardless of where the abuse occurs.

Senate Bill 28 further strengthens Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws by recognizing that perpetrators can be as young as 18, expanding the definition of aggravated assault in child abuse cases, and making it illegal to intimidate or retaliate against a person filing the report on behalf of the abused child.

Senate Bill 30 establishes accountability and due process protections for individuals by requiring false claims of suspected child abuse be maintained in a statewide database, provides for appeals of indicated reports, sets timeframe for hearings and decisions.

Senate Bill 34 establishes a comprehensive system for professional educators who are investigated and disciplined for misconduct in Pennsylvania.

Senate Bill 1116 provides for multidisciplinary investigative teams to coordinate child abuse investigations between county agencies and law enforcement.

House Bill 321 directs the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to provide for a sentencing enhancement for child pornography, based upon the age of the child victimized, the number of images possessed, and the nature and character of the abuse.

House Bill 414 requires the court, in a custody proceeding, to consider factors related to child abuse and involvement with child protective services.

House Bill 726 amends the definitions of “child abuse” and related terms in the Child Protective Services Law.

House Bill 1201 provides that a person who is under 18 years of age when they are victims of physical or sexual abuse may have his or her name withheld from the public domain even if the person is an adult at the time of prosecution.

House Bill 1594 makes luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure a second-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, up from a first-degree misdemeanor and five years.

“Protecting children has to be priority for all residents of the Commonwealth and these bills will make significant improvements in how we as a state combat these crimes.”

Scott Sikorski at (717) 787 – 1377 or ssikorski@pasen.gov