As Sandusky trial continues, Pa. panel concentrates on preventing child abuse

    In the wake of child sex abuse charges against Jerry Sandusky, Pennsylvania lawmakers have created a panel to look for ways to improve child protection laws and procedures.

    The group’s ninth meeting comes alongside the daily trickle of news from the Sandusky trial — prompting soul-searching questions from panel members.

    Department of Public Welfare deputy secretary Bev Mackereth says the attention child abuse issues are receiving because of the case involving Penn State’s former assistant coach is undeniable.

    But she worries attempted child protection fixes won’t be long lasting because they aren’t rooted in any one government office or in individual communities.

    “That’s something for all of us to really consider, because we’ve been here,” Mackereth says. “We were here when there were other child deaths, we were here when there were other sensational cases, and then we kind of go about our business, and there’s no home.”

    Dr. David Turkewitz told the panel the scandal underscores the confusion surrounding rules for reporting abuse for school employees.

    “Reporting of school-related abuse is confusing. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m still confused,” he said. “And reading all the newspapers about the Sandusky stuff, I’m not alone. Everybody is confused in terms of all the grayness there. Throw that stuff out.”

    Turkewitz, who’s chairman of pediatrics at York Hospital, offers other suggestions, as well — such as directing more resources to the state’s child abuse hot-line, and creating a more specific legal definition of abuse.

    Other suggestions before the Task Force on Child Protection include creating an independent office to oversee the state’s child protection system, and giving it a dedicated funding source that won’t be subject to cuts in tough budget years.

    The panel’s final recommendations are due in November.

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