Legislation sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) to expand the list of those mandated to report suspected child abuse has unanimously passed the Children and Youth Committee.
"My legislation, which largely tracks the recommendations of the Task Force on Child Protection empaneled following the issues at Penn State University, will ensure when a child in Pennsylvania is abused the authorities will be notified," Stephens said.
Under House Bill 436, those required to report suspected child abuse include all school personnel, including those at colleges and universities; child care providers; religious leaders; physicians and other health care workers; social services workers; law enforcement officers; attorneys; librarians; emergency medical service providers; and employees and independent contractors of each of these entities.
The bill fulfills a recommendation by the Task Force on Child Protection to clarify the law on who must report suspected child abuse, but it also increases the penalties for failing to do so to a felony in the most egregious circumstances.
"I believe we all share an obligation to protect Pennsylvania's children," Stephens continued. "But those in positions of trust or who are responsible for caring for our children must be vigilant in reporting suspected child abuse."
As a member of the Children and Youth Committee, Stephens also supported five other bills to improve child safety.
The bills include:
House Bill 430-This legislation would improve the procedures for reporting child abuse in Pennsylvania by eliminating chain-of-command reporting within organizations and institutions, allowing for Internet and email reporting, and would institute a cross reporting requirement to ensure that reports of suspected child abuse are sent to the proper authorities.
House Bill 433-This would provide for additional safeguards and due process with respect to the outcome of a child abuse investigation by requiring that the county Children and Youth Agency director and solicitor approve indicated reports of child abuse and provide a specific timeline for appeals of the outcome of a child abuse investigation.
House Bill 434-This bill ensures that school employees are subject to the same investigations and held to the same standards as parents, child care workers and other perpetrators of child abuse.
House Bill 435-- Expands and clarifies background clearance requirements and bars to employment for individuals who, in a paid or volunteer position, are responsible for the welfare of a child.
House Bill 726--Amends the definitions of child abuse and related terms in the Child Protective Services Law.
"Taken together, these bills strengthen the laws against child abuse while clarifying the chain of responsibility so crimes like those committed at Penn State cannot fall through the cracks and go unaddressed," Stephens said.