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Letter to Barbara Mikulski and Richard Burr, Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Children and Families for the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today urged the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families to hold a hearing on federal laws that are designed to protect children from sexual abuse. Senator Casey called for a hearing that examines federal statutes designed to force those who witness the sexual abuse of a child to report the crime to authorities.

"The tragic events reported from Penn State have been a shock to the nation's conscience. It is clear we need to examine the federal laws that are designed to protect children from this type of heinous abuse," Senator Casey said. "We must strengthen our laws to ensure that any suspected abuse is immediately reported to law enforcement and child protective services -- it is an essential action to protect our children and ensure that these criminals are stopped before defenseless children are harmed."

Serious allegations of child abuse at Pennsylvania State University involving a former Penn State football assistant coach have been brought to light in a recently published Grand Jury report, which indicts the coach on 40 counts of sex crimes involving boys. The serious nature of these allegations and the evidence on the public record of failure to report by individuals at Penn State warrants an immediate review of the relationship between federal and state reporting requirements on child abuse and neglect.

In a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Subcommittee on Children and Families, Senator Casey asked that the hearing pay special attention to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which is a law designed to create a single federal focus for preventing and responding to child abuse and neglect.

The full text of Senator Casey's letter is below:

The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski
Chairwoman
Subcommittee on Children and Families
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

The Honorable Richard Burr
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Children and Families
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Dear Chairwoman Mikulski and Ranking Member Burr:

I write today to request an expedited hearing in the Subcommittee on Children and Families to assess how well federal laws, such as the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), are protecting children and what provisions are in place to ensure appropriate reporting of suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. This Committee reauthorized CAPTA last year with a new provision to strengthen reporting of child abuse and neglect, but gaps remain that leave victims of such crimes liable to fall through the cracks. Currently, only 18 states require all adults to report suspected child abuse, and Pennsylvania is not one of them.

As you are aware, serious allegations of child abuse at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) involving former Penn State football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky have been brought to light in a recently published Grand Jury report, which indicts Sandusky on 40 counts of sex crimes involving boys. Eight victims have come forward. The serious nature of these allegations and the evidence on the public record of failure to report by individuals at Penn State warrants an immediate review of the relationship between federal and state reporting requirements on child abuse and neglect under CAPTA. Additionally, the hearing should explore the need to support educational and training requirements for people who come into contact with children to recognize abuse and neglect.

To that end my office has consulted with national and Pennsylvania-based child protection advocates on legislation to require states to improve their mandated reporter laws to ensure that all adults recognize their legal responsibility to report suspected child abuse, which I hope to introduce with child advocates' support in the days ahead.

I look forward to working with you to plan a hearing that will highlight the failings that led to the tragedy at Penn State and illuminate a path forward to ensure that children will be protected by all adults entrusted with their care.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator


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