Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Corbett Signs Child Welfare Laws Overhauls Would Create a Statewide Database to Track Reports of Abuse, Neglect

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Corbett Signs Child Welfare Laws Overhauls Would Create a Statewide Database to Track Reports of Abuse, Neglect

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- From creating a statewide database of child abuse reports to boosting children's advocacy centers, Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law additional changes to Pennsylvania's protection laws Monday, part of a sweeping series of overhauls recommended by a task force convened in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal.

"These bills matter to me. They matter to me as a governor. They matter to me as a former prosecutor. They matter to me ... as a parent and now as a grandparent," Mr. Corbett said prior to signing the bills, surrounded by legislators and child advocates who had pushed for the changes.

One of the bills would create a statewide database to make it easier for child welfare and law enforcement agencies to track cases of child abuse and neglect across county lines. It was sponsored by state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, who said in his years in the Shaler Township Police Department he witnessed the need for more coordination among law enforcement and child welfare agencies.

"[This bill] pulls it all together and agrees that there is a share of information," he said.

The state currently lacks an effective system where all 67 counties collect and report data on child neglect, said Joan Benso, president and CEO of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, an advocacy group that has pushed for many of the changes as long overdue.

"This is one of those bills that wasn't really a partisan issue," Mr. Vulakovich said. "Everybody was in agreement."

A number of bills also recommended by the task force have already been signed into law, most prominent among them legislation lowering the bar for the level of bodily injury of what is considered child abuse; that law was signed by the governor in December and takes effect at the end of 2014. …

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