The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

November 27, 2012

Panel: Change Pennsylvania child abuse laws

Staff and wire reports
The Daily Item

HARRISBURG —  Pennsylvania should enact sweeping changes to state child abuse laws, a legislative commission concluded Tuesday after a year of study prompted by Jerry Sandusky’s arrest on child molestation charges.

The Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection’s recommendations include rewriting state law, redefining what constitutes child abuse and expanding the list of people who are required to report suspected abuse.

Another key recommendation would include expanding the use of Children’s Advocacy Centers, like the one operated by Geisinger Medical Center outside Northumberland. The task force report quoted testimony suggesting that if Centre County had had an advocacy center at that time, “Sandusky’s crimes would have been brought to light at the beginning of this millennium, sparing his additional victims 10 or 12 years of misery.”

Snyder County District Attorney Michael Piecuch echoed the sentiment, saying he sees a need for more child advocacy centers, which provide professional medical and forensic interviewing resources in one location. Currently, there are only about 20 child advocacy centers in the state, including one in Northumberland County that serves the surrounding counties.

“We’re fortunate to have a facility within 30 minutes with top-notch resources that provides a collaborative approach,” he said, singling out pediatrician and child advocate Dr. Pat Bruno as “a hero” in the effort to reduce child abuse.

Piecuch said he’d like to see the money Penn State has been ordered to pay as a result of Sandusky’s abuse used to build more centers.

“Twenty centers for 67 counties are just not enough,” he said.

State Sen. John Gordner, R-27, of Berwick, one of the sponsors of the Senate resolution that created the task force, said that the timing of the task force’s recommendations is perfect because lawmakers will spend December developing their legislative priorities for the new session, which begins in January.

He said the Legislature had hoped to create a task force that included experts with a wide range of experience and expertise to help determine what must be done. The task force approved its recommendations unanimously, strongly indicating that there is widespread support for them, Gordner said.