Two Locals Tapped for Child Abuse Panel Committee to Determine How State Laws, Training Can Improve

Article excerpt

Two Pittsburgh representatives named to a special task force to review the state's child-abuse laws in the wake of the Penn State University sex abuse scandal say they are eager to add their expertise and experiences to a discussion that is long overdue.

Rachel Berger, a physician at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and William Strickland, president and CEO of the Manchester Bidwell Corp., were among the lawyers, doctors, social workers and other experts tapped Tuesday for the panel, which will study how child abuse is reported and how laws and training can be improved.

The state House and Senate formed the 11-member panel in response to the scandal in which former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with molesting 10 boys over a 15-year period.

But problems with state laws and reporting practices existed long before then, said Dr. Berger, who often sees the problems firsthand in her work on the Child Protection Team at Children's. She and others in her field have sought such a task force for years, she said.

Dr. Berger's patients are children who have been abused by adults, but too often, she said, their injuries do not count as abuse by the state's definition, which she described as the narrowest in the country. She cited 2010 data that showed that only about 3,800 of 4 million Pennsylvania children were considered abuse victims by the state's definition, far fewer than are classified as abused in other states.

Part of the reason, she added, is that abuse, even that which proves to be fatal, isn't counted as such in the state's total if a perpetrator can't be determined.

Problems with reporting child abuse also abound. …


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