Pa. Task Force on Child Protection Must Set Clear Abuse Reporting Guidelines

Published: Tuesday, January 17, 2012, 6:00 AM

By Patriot-News Editorial Board

The Task Force on Child Protection has one of the most critical jobs in Pennsylvania: ensuring child abuse — like the kind alleged at Penn State and in certain Catholic churches — is reported, stopped quickly and never happens again.

Last week, the governor, Senate and House leaders announced their choices for who would serve on this important committee. There are doctors, district attorneys, a leader in rape crisis, an educator, social worker, attorney and a judge among the members.

As first impressions go, the list of participants seems like a good balance of people with diverse interests in the issue of child abuse. While there is a former state senator on the panel who is now a DA, what the task force rightly does not include is a current legislator.

This is a positive sign and hopefully will keep the group’s focus on how to keep kids safe rather than turning it into another political campaign tool. The job before these professionals is too critical to allow inane differences between Democrats and Republicans to get in the way.

As Gov. Tom Corbett said when he announced the group: “The task force has a tremendously important job. It will provide input to help us strengthen state laws and ensure every Pennsylvania child receives the protection from harm they deserve.”

Now comes the challenging part: The group was given a broad scope and only 11 months to accomplish its work. It must decide what key issues to tackle in that time. Some topics that must be addressed are obvious in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that prompted the task force’s creation. The group must determine how to compel institutions to report child abuse. Sadly, it appears there are times when institutions put their reputations ahead of what is best for children.

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