Stephens Child Protection Bill Goes to Governor
HARRISBURG-- Legislation sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) to improve the state’s child protection laws is headed to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature.

“Today, we are closer to meeting one of our greatest obligations-- protecting our children from abuse and ensuring those we entrust with their care fulfill their obligations” Stephens said. “Children suffering from abuse are often unable to speak for themselves. People in positions of trust, who work with and are responsible for caring for our children, must be their voice and speak out.”

Stephens, a former Montgomery County child abuse prosecutor, introduced House Bill 436 to increase penalties for those mandated to report suspected child abuse who fail to do so. The bill raises the penalties for failing to report suspected child abuse from a misdemeanor of the third degree to as high as a felony of the second degree in some instances.

It was a companion to Senate Bill 21, sponsored by Sen. Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), which included Stephens’ language expanding and clarifying the list of those professions required to report suspected child abuse. The bills fulfilled recommendations made by the Task Force on Child Protection, which was chaired by Bucks County District Attorney and former Judge David Heckler and was formed in the wake of the scandal at Penn State University. The need for changes to the law were also exemplified in the arrest this summer of a Montgomery County camp counselor who was alerted to a sexual assault of one of the children under his care but failed to notify police.

Under the legislation, which passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature, 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 representing organizations that care for children; librarians; emergency medical service providers; and employees and independent contractors of each of these entities.

The bills were stalled over the issue of whether to adopt the task force’s recommendation to require attorneys to report suspected child abuse. Attorneys for Penn State were aware of Jerry Sandusky’s conduct with children as early as 2001 but were not required to notify authorities. As a result, according to the Freeh Report, two more children suffered abuse before Sandusky’s conduct was reported to authorities. Stephens’ initial bill included attorneys, while the Senate’s initial proposal did not.

Ultimately, after working together with Stephens, the Pennsylvania Bar Association and the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts, the Senate inserted the compromise language now making its way to the governor’s desk.

“This bill is the culmination of outstanding cooperation between the House, Senate and stakeholders to better protect Pennsylvania’s children,” Stephens said. “By working together, we were able to dramatically improve our child protection system and increase penalties for those mandated reporters who endanger our children by failing to report suspected child abuse.”

Representative Todd Stephens
151st District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: David Foster
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