2012-11-27 Child Protection Report FINAL.pdf - JOINT STATE GOVERNMENT COMMISSION General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania CHILD PROTECTION

2012-11-27 Child Protection Report FINAL.pdf - JOINT STATE...

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Unformatted text preview: JOINT STATE GOVERNMENT COMMISSION General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania CHILD PROTECTION IN PENNSYLVANIA: PROPOSED RECOMMENDATIONS REPORT OF THE TASK FORCE ON CHILD PROTECTION November 2012 JOINT STATE GOVERNMENT COMMISSION Serving the Pennsylvania General Assembly Since 1937 This report may be downloaded from either of the following websites: jsg.legis.state.pa.us/ childprotection.state.pa.us/ Because this report is quite lengthy, limited printing will be done. A short summary will be provided upon request and may also be found on the foregoing websites. __________________________________________________________________ The Joint State Government Commission was created by the act of July 1, 1937 (P.L.2460, No.459), as amended, as a continuing agency for the development of facts and recommendations on all phases of government for the use of the General Assembly. __________________________________________________________________ Joint State Government Commission Room 108 Finance Building Harrisburg, PA 17120-0018 Telephone: 717-787-4397 Fax: 717-787-7020 E-mail: [email protected] Website: Project Staff: Yvonne Llewellyn Hursh, Assistant Counsel Yelena Khanzhina, Public Policy Analyst Stephen F. Rehrer, Counsel Wendy L. Baker, Executive Assistant __________________________________________________________________ The release of this report should not be interpreted as an endorsement by the members of the Executive Committee of the Joint State Government Commission of all the findings, recommendations or conclusions contained in this report. __________________________________________________________________ JOINT STATE GOVERNMENT COMMISSION OFFICERS Representative Florindo J. Fabrizio, Chair Senator John C. Rafferty, Jr., Vice Chair ___________________________________________________ EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Senate Members House Members Joseph B. Scarnati, III President Pro Tempore Samuel H. Smith Speaker Dominic F. Pileggi Majority Leader Michael C. Turzai Majority Leader Jay Costa Minority Leader Frank J. Dermody Minority Leader Patrick M. Browne Majority Whip Stan Saylor Majority Whip Anthony H. Williams Minority Whip Michael K. Hanna Minority Whip Michael L. Waugh Chair, Majority Caucus Sandra J. Major Chair, Majority Caucus Richard A. Kasunic Chair, Minority Caucus Dan B. Frankel Chair, Minority Caucus Member Ex-Officio Representative Florindo J. Fabrizio, Commission Chair _________________________________________________ Glenn J. Pasewicz, Executive Director Stephen F. Rehrer, Counsel _________________________________________________ TASK FORCE ON CHILD PROTECTION The Honorable David W. Heckler District Attorney, Bucks County (Chairman) Dr. Rachel P. Berger, MD, MPH Child Protection Team, Child Advocacy Center, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Jackie Atherton Bernard, Esq. Chief Deputy District Attorney, Blair County Dr. Cindy W. Christian, MD Director, Safe Place: The Center for Child Protection and Health, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Medical Director, Department of Human Services, Philadelphia The Honorable Arthur E. Grim Senior Judge, Court of Common Pleas, Berks County Carol Hobbs-Picciotto, MHS Intake Social Worker, Philadelphia Garrison Ipock, Jr. Executive Director, The Glen Mills Schools Jason P. Kutulakis, Esq. Senior Partner, Abom & Kutulakis, LLP Delilah Rumburg Executive Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape National Sexual Violence Resource Center William Strickland President and CEO, Manchester Bidwell Corporation The Honorable Gary D. Alexander, Ex Officio Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Designee: The Honorable Beverly D. Mackereth Deputy Secretary, Office of Children, Youth and Families, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare COMMENTS OF THE TASK FORCE CHAIRMAN “First and most important, measure all of your decisions and suggestions for legislative reform against the questions of whether a change or changes will improve the protection offered to vulnerable and dependent children.” -- Richard J. Gelles, Ph.D., Dean, School of Social Policy & Practice of the University of Pennsylvania I am privileged to take this opportunity to offer some general thoughts on behalf of myself and the extraordinarily able colleagues who served as members of this task force. First, as you can tell from the quotations set forth in our report, the quality of the scores of persons who addressed our panel during the course of the 11 hearings which we held was such that, had we made no recommendations or proposed no draft legislation whatsoever, we would still have performed a great service for this Commonwealth and its children by gathering the collective wisdom, frustrations and advice of the able and dedicated witnesses who appeared at our hearings. We would earnestly urge that those who wish to take up our recommendations or who wish to evaluate their validity, take time to review the collective testimony of these experts. All of it is available either in written form or as live recordings. Taken together, this body of testimony is both inspiring and highly informative. No one who listens to and considers it can doubt that dramatic change is required in the way our governmental institutions work to protect children in Pennsylvania. Early in our proceedings we heard the words inscribed above from Dr. Richard Gelles, Dean of the School of Social Policy & Practice of the University of Pennsylvania. We have done our best to make them the standard for the way in which we performed our duties. This report contains many, many recommendations – some broad and sweeping, others narrow and specific. While the process and its participants, chief among them the chair, may have regularly fallen short of the challenge, we have striven in our deliberations to recommend courses of action and legislative changes which will improve the protection of children in this Commonwealth, first and above all else. I have quoted Dean Gelles’ words not only because they clearly state our duty to put children first but also because they contain several cautionary notes. The first is that all mandates in the form of administrative regulation or legislative enactment are meaningless if they cannot be carried into effect. Our duties are now at an end. It was our responsibility to make one set of recommendations now and to make them as far reaching as possible, even though we recognize that the resources will not exist to accomplish them all immediately. In response to that mandate, we have tried to be as exhaustive in our scope for the benefit of children as possible. However, as will be discussed hereinafter, reality must dictate that the changes we propose will take time to implement. A second cautionary note implied by Dean Gelles’ words is the fact that even if you get exactly what you say you want in terms of legislative enactment and adoption of administrative policies, the rule of unintended consequences is always in effect – it is impossible to envision exactly how the best laid plans, no matter how sincerely conceived, will translate when confronted with reality. Accordingly, we have endeavored in our recommendations to give future life to this discourse which our creation by the Legislature has begun. We do so by the recommendation for the creation of three interrelated successor panels which can carry on this discussion and assure that it does not occur in a vacuum. Rather, we intend that those who know what they are talking about in terms of child protection will have reasonable access to policy makers in all three branches of government so that reform of child protection can be an ongoing process. In this regard, we recognize that the Sandusky and Philadelphia Archdiocese scandals have made child abuse prevention a hot topic for now. History tells us that once there has been a legislative response, there will be a tendency for the subject to then move to the back burner where it may languish for years. Children will be far better served if there is a continued attention and gradual evolution of our policies, and we hope that our proposals will make that more likely. A third cautionary note implicit in Dean Gelles’ charge to this task force is that even if you succeed in driving policy and statutes in the direction that you believe proper, any directive from above is only as good as the people – child protective service workers and administrators, police, prosecutors and judges, parents and foster parents – who will actually do the work. Any of these individuals can lack talent or proper training. All can be feckless in carrying out their duties and in our context, when that happens children suffer no matter what policy is announced in Harrisburg and no matter what statute is enacted. Our Founding Fathers created a government based not upon a belief in man’s goodness but rather upon an assumption that people in government will seek power and advantage and otherwise act badly. Thus, as they framed our government they put in place checks and balances aimed at restraining such bad conduct and we have prospered as a consequence. With that in mind, a number of our recommendations attempt to compensate for human frailty, balance responsibilities and build in means for holding the various players in this process accountable for the way in which they do their work. We also have sought the creation of mechanisms which will improve the quality of the system’s personnel and require ever better continuing education of new trainees and veterans alike. For many, particularly in the press, our work will be seen as a response to the Sandusky and Philadelphia Archdiocese cases. Long before I knew I would be involved with this process, I perceived that the choice by the General Assembly to assemble a task force to consider these questions was a wise approach aimed at avoiding knee-jerk legislation driven by a desire to be “responsive” to these outrageous situations. Fortunately, our charge from the Legislature was far broader than merely addressing the conduct of a few wretched pedophiles and the failures of our institutions to protect children from them. However, to the extent that the Sandusky and Archdiocese cases tragically highlight many all too common elements seen in child sex abuse cases generally, it is appropriate to note the ways in which the implementation of our recommendations could be expected to prevent similar tragedies in the future. Some of those specific responses are: (1) Elimination of separate standards for those who are educators or coaches, whether employed or volunteer, making all such persons mandated reporters with the legal responsibility to report directly to ChildLine or law enforcement whenever they are aware that a child is being abused, rather than up the line to administrators who may be motivated to hush things up. We also make clear that persons in Sandusky’s position are recognized as “perpetrators” of child abuse under the Child Protective Services Law. (2) This writer firmly believes that if there had been a multidisciplinary investigative team in place in Centre County at the time questions about Sandusky’s behavior were first raised and that if a Child Advocacy Center (which is the logical outgrowth of such a team) had existed in Centre County at that time, Sandusky’s crimes would have been brought to light at the beginning of this millennium, sparing his additional victims ten or twelve years of misery. We discuss hereinafter in greater detail our reasons for believing that a Child Advocacy Center should be reasonably accessible to every child in this Commonwealth. In the context of Sandusky, the strongest argument for the use of a multidisciplinary approach to these investigations is simply that it creates inescapable accountability for all players in the child protective system, requiring them to perform their duties in a timely and thorough way. (3) Another set of proposals which would have impacted on the Sandusky situation is the requirement that all reports of suspected child abuse, whether founded by initial investigation or not, be retained by the Department of Public Welfare in a securely kept file available only to law enforcement and child protective services for intelligence purposes. Various aspects of this tragedy and the governmental response to it will continue to unfold in the future. However, it is not clear that at any time until the Attorney General’s investigation in the Sandusky case there was any attempt to identify all the multiple victims and build cases which internally corroborated each other. (4) We make clear that colleges and universities and their employees are just as responsible as secondary schools for reporting child abuse and that failure by their staff to do so is a crime. As noted above, we are concerned that the perfect should not be allowed to be the enemy of the good. It must be recognized that in these times of government austerity, not all of our recommendations, assuming that the Legislature were to see fit to enact them all, may be able to be implemented at once. For instance, technological communication improvements as described in our legislative proposals will be central to what we believe will be more effective reporting of child abuse and quicker sharing of these reports once received either by ChildLine, Child Protective Services in the county or law enforcement. However, this kind of change will require expenditure of millions of dollars in information technology changes, both at ChildLine and in many of our counties. While we understand that the Department of Public Welfare is already working on technological enhancements for ChildLine, all of this will not be accomplished overnight. Similarly, with the stroke of a pen we propose requiring background checks for many, including volunteers working with children, who are not presently required to receive such clearances. It is easy to overlook the fact that such an increase in demand will require dramatic increases in the capacity of the Pennsylvania State Police and the Department of Public Welfare to respond to requests for these record checks in a timely way. Assuming that the Legislature sees fit to adopt our recommendations, it is obviously important that state government be diligent in moving forward to protect children. However, we urge that those who monitor implementation of what we recommend recognize that what we call for is a process of improvement rather than a single flash in the pan, followed by a lapse in public attention. A very important part of the process of improvement will be upgraded professional standards for those who work in child protection and ongoing improvement in training of all involved in the child protection system as well as the criminal justice system as it deals with child victims. For this reason we have recommended creation of an Academy made up of selected academicians with experience in the many fields relevant to child protection. One of their duties would be to approve the curricula used in the education of mandated reporters as well as the professional participants in the child protection system. In addition, it is hoped that such Academy members will conduct research going forward, so that better means for preventing child abuse and for dealing with it when it occurs can be discovered and demonstrated to be “evidence based.” We further hope that these practitioners will have effective access to state government by way of the Advisory Council which we also propose, so that the system can improve gradually without the need for incidents which focus public outrage. As a privilege of the chair, I wish to close with a personal note. The opportunity to serve with the outstanding and dedicated men and women who made up this task force and the superbly capable professionals who staffed our endeavors was inspiring. Our deliberations absorbed more time than most of us expected. It is impossible for me to adequately praise the commitment and diligence of the hard core of task force members who participated in those deliberations, mostly in person but also by remote communication. Each of you will have the satisfaction of knowing how extensively you contributed your time to this effort, just as you have committed yourselves each day to making the lives of the most vulnerable of Pennsylvania’s citizens better and safer through your work. While our professional staff are state employees and thus in a sense compensated, all of them were volunteers. Supporting our efforts was simply a task added to the other duties required of them by the various agencies for whom they perform their “day jobs.” I wish to express particular thanks to Mary Taylor, General Counsel for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Jim Anderson, Executive Director of the Juvenile Court Judges Commission, and Trooper First Class Patrick Zirpoli for their intelligence, wisdom born of experience, and commitment to the task which were invaluable to this effort. I also wish to thank Cathy Utz, Bureau Director in the Office of Children, Youth and Families of DPW; Heather Hallman, Chief of Staff of the Office of Children, Youth and Families of DPW; Vicki Wilken, Chief Counsel to Senator Kim L. Ward, Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee; John Scarpato, Executive Director of the House of Representatives Children and Youth Committee; Yvonne Llewellyn Hursh, Assistant Counsel to the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission; and Stephen Rehrer, Counsel to the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission; and, as ever, my indispensable secretary, Beverly Spotts, for their patience, their skill and professionalism, and unfailing good humor without which we could not have accomplished our task. David W. Heckler, Chairman Task Force on Child Protection ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The Task Force on Child Protection would like to thank all the individuals who testified during the public hearing, as well as the following individuals and organizations that facilitated the deliberation process and made possible the publication of this report: James E. Anderson, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission Gladys M. Brown, Deputy Chief Counsel, Democratic Caucus, Pennsylvania Senate Kimberly Early, Legislative Specialist, Office of Legislative Affairs, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Heather Hallman, Chief of Staff, Office of Children, Youth and Families, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Christa C. Kraber, Assistant Director, Democratic Legislative Policy and Research Office, Pennsylvania House of Representatives Todd Lloyd, Child Welfare Director, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children Angela Logan, Director, Office of Policy Development, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Joyce Lukima, Deputy Director of Field Services, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape The Honorable Beverly D. Mackereth, Deputy Secretary, Office of Children, Youth and Families, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Jill McLure, Executive Assistant, Office of Children, Youth and Families, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Jonathan McVey, Executive Policy Specialist, Office of Policy Development, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare (continued) Michele Messinger, Administrative Officer, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Lt. Gregg Mrochko, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. John O’Neill, Supervisor, Computer Crime Unit, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Pennsylvania State Police Cathleen Palm, Executive Director, Protect Our Children Committee Roseann Perry, Director, Bureau of Children and Family Services, Office of Children, Youth and Families, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare Lisa R. Roscoe, Executive Secretary, Office of Children, Youth and Families, Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare John E. Scarpato, Executive Director, Childr...
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