1 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: 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. ( , ), 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.
2 Fax: 717-787-7020. E-mail: 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 Samuel H. Smith President Pro Tempore Speaker Dominic F. Pileggi Michael C. Turzai Majority Leader Majority Leader Jay Costa Frank J. Dermody Minority Leader Minority Leader Patrick M. Browne Stan Saylor Majority Whip Majority Whip Anthony H.
3 Williams Michael K. Hanna Minority Whip Minority Whip Michael L. Waugh Sandra J. Major Chair, Majority Caucus Chair, Majority Caucus Richard A. Kasunic Dan B. Frankel Chair, Minority Caucus 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.
4 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.
5 -- Richard J. Gelles, , 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.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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 inter- related 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.
9 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.
10 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.