Times Leader Staff

Casey’s bill would set standards for reporting of suspected child abuse

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Child Abuse Prevention Month comes to a close, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has reintroduced his Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid Act — also known as the SPEAK Up Act.

The bill would require states to implement a consistent standard for child abuse reporting by requiring those with responsibility over children, such as medical professionals, teachers and coaches, to report suspected abuse and neglect directly to state authorities.

Casey’s bill was first introduced in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The legislation would tie states’ child abuse prevention funding to the adoption of new standards to better protect abuse victims.

“We must do everything we can to protect children from abuse and neglect,” Casey, D-Scranton, said. “This legislation targets a loophole that would allow abusers to get away with their crimes and emphasizes the responsibility of all adults to protect children from abuse and neglect.”

The SPEAK Up Act would require all states to pass a law requiring adults with a professional responsibility to children to report instances of known or suspected abuse in order for states to receive funding through the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Casey’s proposal would also require these mandated reporters to give their reports directly to the state authorities responsible for investigating child abuse and neglect.

The legislation closes a loophole in existing law that can leave children in danger because their abuser is from another state, or because the child was visiting another state when he or she was abused. Under this bill, it is clear the state where the incident occurred has the obligation to investigate, and that other states must help if necessary.

The bill would also:

• Provide support to states to carry out educational campaigns and training to inform individuals about what constitutes abuse and neglect.

• Promote new approaches and techniques to improve reporting.

• Evaluate states’ progress on mandatory reporting.

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Times Leader Staff