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Politics Trumps Kids Part 1

Politics, special interest groups delay child advocacy improvements: special report By JAN MURPHY, The Patriot-News

With this week expected to be the General Assembly’s last chance for passing legislation for the year, children’s advocates are growing worried. Little has been done to improve the protection of the state’s youngest citizens this year.

In a sense, it’s remarkable, since this is the year when high-profile cases involving Jerry Sandusky and the Philadelphia Archdiocese brought child abuse — and child sex abuse — into the spotlight. Last week, Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach, was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison. 

The Sandusky and Archdiocese cases opened the doors for more victims to talk freely about child sex abuse. And many would have expected lawmakers to fall all over themselves to pass laws to protect kids.  

Instead, advocates saw the lawmakers form a task force to study how laws to protect children need to be strengthened. John Salveson, president of the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, described the task force as essentially a synonym for “not taking action.”  

The Legislature passed a law requiring teachers and school personnel to receive training on recognizing and reporting child abuse. State Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland County, sponsored the legislation.  Other bills have been introduced but none are likely to reach Gov. Tom Corbett’s desk for his signature before the Legislature ends its work for the year.

Technically, the General Assembly’s session ends on Nov. 30. But legislative leaders have said they don’t plan on taking any further action on bills after this week. Children’s advocates blame this virtual inaction on politics. They blame it on special interests’ influence. They blame it on an inability to show true leadership at a time when its needed most.  

“This has to be a teachable moment for Pennsylvania,” said Jennifer Storm, Dauphin County victim/witness assistance office director. “If we don’t make it a teachable moment, then shame on every single person involved.” 

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