Sen. Casey Introduces Legislation in Wake of Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal

Bill Would Emphasize Awareness Training for Those Most Likely to Witness Abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) yesterday introduced legislation to require all adults to report child abuse and neglect to the appropriate authorities.

“As we’re trying to comprehend what appears to be a case of blatant failure on the part of adults to protect children, our focus should be on doing everything we can to prevent abuse in the future,” said Senator Casey. “I introduced this legislation to close a loophole that allows abusers to get away with heinous crimes and emphasize the responsibility of all adults to protect children from abuse and neglect.”

The Speak Up to Protect Every Abused Kid (Speak Up) Act of 2011 would require all states to pass and enforce a law requiring all adults to report instances of known or suspected child abuse in order for states to receive funding through the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), the federal statute focused on child abuse and neglect prevention and response.

The Speak Up Act will specify that child abuse must be reported directly to law enforcement or the state’s Child Protective Services agency. Currently, federal law does not specify to whom mandated reporters must report suspected abuse or neglect. In Pennsylvania and many other states, the reporter must notify only the person in charge of the relevant institution, creating a loophole that tragically prevents or delays action against suspected abusers.

The bill will also:

  • Provide support to states to carry out educational campaigns and training to inform individuals about what constitutes child abuse and neglect, and promote greater responsibility;
  • Promotes new approaches and techniques to improve reporting; and
  • Evaluate states’ progress on mandatory reporting.

The Speak Up Act is cosponsored by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).