In rush to protect kids from abuse, Pa. lawmakers urged to move carefully

    With the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal in the headlines, Pennsylvania lawmakers are calling attention to proposed reforms to child protection laws.

    But some child welfare advocates say it’s dangerous to become too distracted by the scandal that rocked Penn State.

    After Sandusky was arrested, the state Capitol saw a deluge of proposed changes to child protection laws.

    One particularly hot topic is amping up the penalty for letting child abuse go unreported, and requiring people to tell not just their supervisors, but police.

    Cathleen Palm, of the Protect Our Children advocacy coalition, says she’s aware of the many overlapping proposals, but she’s not calling for the speedy passage of any one of them.

    “Each of the pieces of legislation has value and has a role to play but I think moving any of them independently of each other is where we get into problems because it would not get us into a comprehensive fix,” Palm said. “It wouldn’t seal all the cracks, it potentially even creates more cracks.”

    For example — the state could strengthen the penalty for not reporting child abuse from a misdemeanor to a felony.

    But Palm says that policy might be stronger if it came along with a requirement that certain professions be trained to identify and report child abuse.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.