Child Abuse Legislation Package One Step Closer to Becoming Law
The state House's approval of three bills related to child abuse is a significant step forward in strengthening the law when it comes to those criminally involved in child sex abuse cases.
The bills were drafted by various lawmakers in response to the Jerry Sandusky and Catholic priest child abuse scandals. They are now before the state Senate.
Under Senate Bill 23, the definition of a perpetrator of child abuse is redefined. It also outlines new procedures for expunging information in cases connected to perpetrators under 18.
The legislation would further define a potential perpetrator as a spouse or romantic partner of a parent; an individual 14 or older who resides in the child's household, someone who is related within the fifth degree but does not reside in the same household, or someone who is responsible for the child's welfare, such as in a program or service in or outside of the house.
Senate Bill 1116 would enhance joint child abuse investigations between county children and youth agencies and law enforcement.
Senate Bill 28 would lower the age of a perpetrator for enhanced penalty for simple assault from 21 to 18; expand what constitutes aggravated assault; amend the offense of endangering the welfare of children to include interfering with reporting abuse or preventing its discovery, including not reporting it at all.
Additionally, preventing the discovery of an abused or neglected child would be classified as a third-degree felony under the bill.
The bill also allows for a person who intimidates or attempts to intimidate anyone from making a report of suspected child abuse could be found guilty of a second-degree felony.
Rep. Scott Conklin (D-Centre County) believes the bills would help ensure the safety of children.
"They all have one basic theme and that theme is to understand that we have to try to weed predators out of any institution that has child care ... It's important that we tighten the criteria for individuals who are taking care of children," Conklin says.
Conklin acknowledges it is sad that lawmakers have to develop such laws, but thinks it's imperative to take action.
Conklin says it is important for the state legislature to draft legislation that takes "every precaution we can to make sure children are in the safest environment possible."