The Senate continued its work to strengthen Pennsylvania’s child protection laws by passing five more bills today (October 16) aimed at protecting children from abuse, according to Senate Majority Whip Pat Browne.
Senate Bill 28, introduced by Senator Browne, lowers the age of a perpetrator for simple assault from age 21 to 18; amends aggravated assault to include (1) causing bodily injury to a child under the age of 6 as a felony of the second degree and (2) causing serious bodily injury to a child under the age of 13 as a felony of the first degree; creates new offenses of “false reports of child abuse” and “intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases” to protect any reporter, victim or witness from reporting child abuse.
“This bill strengthens Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws by holding perpetrators accountable for their actions and by increasing the criminal penalties for any person who injures a child,” Senator Browne said. “In addition, this legislation creates the new offense of ‘intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases’ which not only protects the victim, but also the reporter or witness who acts on behalf of the abused child. These changes are important steps to increase the safety of Pennsylvania’s young people, fully prosecute those who prey on children and to protect those who have a responsibility to report cases of child abuse.”
The other bills approved by the Senate today which are part of the child protection package include:
Senate Bill 24 – Would establish a statewide database for protective services. The database will include reports of child abuse and children in need of general protective services. Reports include information relating to the subject of the report, the nature of the occurrence, information on the family, services provided, legal actions initiated and other details required by the Department of Public Welfare.
Senate Bill 29 – Requires health care providers to immediately report if a newborn is identified as being affected by prenatal exposure to illegal substances. Upon receipt of the report, the county agency shall perform an assessment and determine whether child protective services or general protective services are warranted.
Senate Bill 31 – Amends the Child Protective Services Law to eliminate the separate system for reporting abuse by school employees. Currently, Pennsylvania law provides that if there is a case of suspected child abuse in which the alleged perpetrator is a school employee, there is no requirement to report that abuse unless it rises to the level of a “serious bodily injury.”
Senate Bill 1116 – Provides for a multidisciplinary investigative team to be used to coordinate child-abuse investigations between county agencies and law enforcement. The county agency and the district attorney shall develop a protocol for convening multidisciplinary investigative teams for any case of child abuse involving crimes against children that include responses to direct reports by individuals, reports by county agencies, for investigations and plans for services.
Today’s votes follow the Senate’s passage two weeks ago of six measures to provide sweeping improvements to Pennsylvania’s child protection laws. The 11-bill package was based on the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection, created by the passage of Senate Resolution 250 in 2011.
The bills are now before the House of Representatives for consideration.