Bill changes requirements for reporting child abuse

May 12, 2014 Comments Off on Bill changes requirements for reporting child abuse

Bill changes requirements for reporting child abuse
By Kristen Doerschner
Sunday, May 11, 2014

It took nine years and a national scandal for a bill that strengthens child abuse reporting requirements for school employees to make its way through the Legislature.

The bill — which cleared the House on March 18 and the Senate Wednesday — was first introduced in 2005 by Sen. Wayne D. Fontana, D-42, Pittsburgh. Fontana, determined to see the bill become law, said he has re-introduced the bill every session since then.

The bill was presented to Gov. Tom Corbett Thursday, and, after it is signed, it will take effect Dec. 31.

Two of the major changes regard who is required to report suspected abuse to the authorities and what types of injuries can be investigated.

School employees and anyone who provides a school-sponsored program, activity or service will be required to report suspect child abuse directly to the Department of Public Welfare’s ChildLine and to their school administrator.

Lessons from Penn State: Training Mandated Reporters

May 10, 2012 Comments Off on Lessons from Penn State: Training Mandated Reporters

Lessons from Penn State: Training Mandated Reporters
By James R. Marsh on May 8, 2012

From a special edition of Centerpiece, the official newsletter of the National Child Protection Training Center:

The recent child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University, in which multiple, well-educated professionals declined to report clear evidence of maltreatment, is not an isolated instance. Twenty years of research documents what every child protection professional in America already knows—that most people most of the time won’t report even clear evidence of maltreatment or otherwise intervene to save a child.

Although less clear, the Penn State scandal also draws attention to an equally disturbing problem—that even when reports of abuse are made, these reports are often handled ineffectually if not incompetently. According to media reports of the Penn State scandal, investigators and prosecutors did review a 1998 report of inappropriate intimate contact with a boy.

The alleged perpetrator, Jerry Sandusky, even admitted to two university detectives that he hugged the boy while both were naked….

Although this recorded admission of Sandusky’s is an incriminating if not out-right confession of indecent contact with a boy, no charges or additional actions were taken.

The inability, even failure of criminal justice authorities to take meaningful action to protect a child is also not an isolated anecdote.

Judge won’t dismiss misdemeanor charges against Kansas City Roman Catholic bishop, diocese

April 7, 2012 Comments Off on Judge won’t dismiss misdemeanor charges against Kansas City Roman Catholic bishop, diocese

Judge won’t dismiss misdemeanor charges against Kansas City Roman Catholic bishop, diocese

By Associated Press, April 5, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Missouri judge refused Thursday to dismiss misdemeanor charges against a Kansas City diocese and its bishop, who is the highest-ranking U.S. Roman Catholic official criminally charged with shielding an abusive priest.

Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are charged with failing to report suspected child abuse. Prosecutors say each is a “mandatory reporter” under the state law. Defense attorneys argued the law is unconstitutionally vague, and that Finn wasn’t the diocese’s designated reporter.

“This Court finds and concludes that persons of ordinary intelligence have no difficulty understanding the meaning of ‘immediately report,’” Circuit Judge John Torrence wrote in his ruling….

Finn has acknowledged he was told in December 2010 about hundreds of images of small children, some of them pornographic, found on the Rev. Shawn Ratigan’s computer – several months before the diocese turned over a disk containing the photos to local police. The bishop also has acknowledged that a parish principal raised concerns about Ratigan’s behavior around children in May 2010, half a year before the photos were found….

Finn in turn sent Ratigan out of state for a psychiatric evaluation. When the priest returned to Missouri, Finn sent him to the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist, where he was to say Mass for the sisters and be away from children.

The diocese went to police with the photos last May after the church received reports Ratigan had violated orders to stay away from children.

Ratigan was charged that month with three state child pornography counts. He was then charged in June with 13 federal counts of producing, possessing and attempting to produce child porn. He has pleaded not guilty and remains jailed.

Finn has claimed Vicar General Robert Murphy and a diocese review board – not the bishop – were responsible for reporting suspected images of child pornography to the state.

But prosecutors insist that as the diocese’s top manager, Finn not only was a mandatory reporter, but acknowledged as much before a grand jury.

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