January always brings new laws at the federal and state level. This year is no different. In Pennsylvania, we are seeing a bunch of laws aimed at protecting the welfare of children – specifically those who are thought to have suffered abuse at the hands of an adult. This may be our states reaction to the national spotlight that came with the Jerry Sandusky case or it may just be time to better protect children according to PA lawmakers. Either way, the following is a list of changes to laws that Governor Corbett signed back in December which have since taken effect (on January 1):

  • Amend the definition of child abuse to lower the threshold from serious bodily injury to bodily injury and include knowingly, recklessly or intentionally committing acts of child abuse or failing to act when child abuse is being committed. The bill also provides exclusions from substantiation of child abuse. (House Bill 726, Rep. Scott Petri (R-Bucks))
  • Broaden the definition of perpetrator to include employees or volunteers that have regular contact, school teachers and employees, and individuals related to the child. (Senate Bill 23, Senator Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne))
  • Recognize that perpetrators can be as young as 18 and create new protections that address false reports and intimidation. (Senate Bill 28, Senator Patrick Browne (R-Lehigh))
  • Provide immunity for reporters from liability, penalties for false reporting and improved appeals processes. (Senate Bill 30, Senator Ted Erickson (R-Chester))
  • Expand the basis for disciplinary action against teachers to include findings of child abuse. (Senate Bill 34, Senator Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster))
  • Clarify and encourage joint child abuse investigations between county children and youth agencies and law enforcement (Senate Bill 1116, Senator LeAnna Washington (D-Philadelphia))
  •  Instruct the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to provide guidelines for offenses involving child pornography. (House Bill 321, Rep. Marcy Toepel (R- Montgomery))
  • Declare that when awarding custody, a parent’s involvement with cases of child abuse shall be considered and provide for information sharing on child protective services and general protective services to the jurisdiction determining custody. (House Bill 414, Rep. Bernie O’Neill (R-Bucks))
  • Prevent the records and name of minor victims of sexual or physical abuse from being available for public review. (House Bill 1201, Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria))
  •  Establish the offense of luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure. (House Bill 1594, Rep. Mike Regan (R-York))