SCRANTON — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, introduced legislation in the Senate on Thursday that would improve how incidents of known or suspected child abuse are reported.
The Speak up to Protect Every Abused Kid Act would require every state to adopt laws so that incidents are reported to the property authorities.
The bill amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) “with a singular focus on child abuse and neglect prevention and response.”
According to the 2012 Department of Public Welfare Annual Child Abuse report, there were 550 reports of child abuse in Luzerne County in 2012, with 117 of the reports being substantiated.
In Lackawanna County, there were 517 reports, with 64 of them being substantiated.
Casey referenced the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State as a reason for the needed change in reporting child abuse.
“We need to act and we need to listen to the experts in the field that deal with this horrific circumstance every day of the week,” Casey said.
The new bill would:
• Set a federal floor for mandated reporting of child abuse and neglect. Some mandated reporters would include medical professionals, school employees, law enforcement officers and social service agencies.
• Direct reports of child abuse to the proper authorities. The bill would specify that reports of child abuse must be made to either law enforcement or child protective services.
• Promote new approaches and techniques to improve reporting. The bill would expand the responsibility of task forces so they consider new approaches to improve reporting and make recommendations accordingly.
• Evaluate states’ progress on mandatory reporting. The bill would require the Department of Human and Health Services (HHS) to report to Congress after four years to assess the changes made by the bill.
States would have two years after the date of enactment to come in compliance with the law.