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Senate Works Towards Improved Child Protection

October 3, 2013- Howard Ondick & Hanson Quickel
HARRISBURG- The Senate has approved a series of bills to provide sweeping improvements to Pennsylvania’s child protection laws. Six bills received senate approval this week with issues ranged from whistle blower protection for reporting child abuse to stricter penalties for failing to report child abuse.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati said he is very pleased with the Senate’s bipartisan effort to address child protection.

“The bills take an important Step to update the definitions relating to what is child abuse and clearly outline the responsibilities of healthcare workers and educators for reporting child abuse.” Scarnati said. “Our children are our future and it is crucial that we provide them with safety and protection from abuse at all times.”

The bills are part of a bipartisan package of legislation introduced after the recommendations of the Pennsylvania taskforce on child protection.

One of the bills is legislation proposed by a Luzerne County lawmaker that would make it easier to report suspected child abuse in Pennsylvania.

The Senate Communications & Technology Committee approved Senate Bill 26 yesterday that would require the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to establish a three-digit toll-free number, which would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so that people could more easily report suspected child abuse to child protection professionals.

The legislation was among the recommendations made by the special Task Force on Child Protection which released its report earlier this year with a dozen or more suggestions on laws that should be considered by the state legislature.

Senator Yudichak’s bill, which as 25 cosponsors in the Senate, is heading to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration before going to the full Senate for a vote.

If approved by the state legislature, it’s anticipated the statewide toll-free hotline will be up and running by January 1, 2014.

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