Capitolwire: Child protection laws cast a wider net on mandated reporters, advocates say
April 16, 2014
By Christen Smith
HARRISBURG (April 15) — Gov. Tom Corbett signed four more child protection bills Tuesday inside the lobby of the Ambler Area YMCA, surrounded by the mandated reporters at the center of the new laws.
Senate Bills 21 and 33 and House Bills 431 and 436 flesh out the role of the state’s mandated reporters — including teachers, doctors, nurses and clergy members — by expanding the term’s very definition to implementing new training for recognizing abuse to ramping-up punishment for those who fail to report it.
“Today I’m signing four crucial bills that demonstrate our commitment to helping protect innocent children from the monsters that would do them harm,” Corbett said. “By our actions today, we are sending a message that we will not turn a blind eye to the abuse of children — those who we entrust with the care of our children must be held to a higher standard.”
John Flynn, president and CEO of Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA said the organization was “honored” to host the latest bill signing and shared the governor’s “commitment to nurturing the potential of every child.”
The latest reforms — implemented in waves over the last four months — all developed out of recommendations from the Task Force on Child Protection, a group created in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal.
“We are supportive of these bills, just like we were supportive of the package that went through in December,” said Steve Robinson, spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Board Association. “These bills take away some of the ambiguity in the past. It’s clear who are the mandated reporters and expands it to a broader audience to help a larger group of children.”
Senate Bill 21 extends the definition of mandated reporter to include “all health care professionals and health care facilities, school employees, coaches and independent contractors in schools, and any individual paid or unpaid who accepts direct responsibility for a child.”
Angela Liddle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, congratulated lawmakers for “casting a wider net” with the new definitions and for sending “a clear message that the protection of children is now viewed as holding more importance than institutions and their chains of command.”
“These bills also bring greater accountability to schools, nonprofit organizations and really all entities that serve and work with children,” she wrote in a statement Monday. “Volunteers, in some situations, are now considered to be mandated reporters of child abuse. Our licensed and certified professionals, who always have been mandated reporters, will now be required to have training designed to give them clear instruction on their legal requirements.”
In addition, Senate Bill 33 will protect mandated reporters who face discrimination or termination as a result of filing a child abuse report and supports legal action against their employer.
Robinson says he doesn’t believe employers subject mandated reporters to discrimination often, but says the added protection will only help bring reports to light.
“The bottom line of this legislation is that it is no longer acceptable to say, ‘I did not know what I had to do,’” Liddle wrote. “Legislation aside, the message we most need to convey is that every person in Pennsylvania has a role to play in keeping children safe.”