TPAM Device

LEGISLATIVE & POLICY UPDATES

The Policy Update is provided as notice of potential child protection related legislation that is being considered in Harrisburg or DC. This update is NOT reflective of legislation which has earned the endorsement of the POCC.

Prepared February 20, 2010

ADVANCED QUARTERLY PAYMENTS FOR CYS - Senate Bill 640 and House Bill 1157 would provide counties with equalized quarterly payments of 25% with final reconciliation in the fourth quarter. Dauphin County Commissioner Hartwick testified about the quarterly payment legislation in late May before the House Appropriations Committee. Hartwick said that the legislation would ... make it easier for counties to provide or purchase services without interruption and without having to seek tax anticipation loans to ease cash-flow pressures. ...

CHILD ABUSE MULTIDISCIPLINARY RESPONSES - Representative Harhart’s legislation to realize a stable funding mechanism for the work of county-based multidisciplinary responses to child abuse prevention, investigation and intervention, specifically the work of local children’s advocacy centers (CACs) is embodied as House Bill 388. It has been pending in the Judiciary Committee and in previous sessions the legislation has worked its way through the PA House but then stalled in the PA Senate.

CHILD RAPIST & PREDATOR DETECTION ACT - Next week the House Judiciary Committee will convene a public hearing on House Bill 928 - the Child Rapist and Predator Detection Act. The legislation is introduced by retiring Representative Richard Grucela and Republican candidate for Governor Sam Rohrer. The legislation was introduced last session as House Bill 2350. The legislation seeks to address that ... child rapists and other serious predators avoid detection and punishment, ... in part, by ... strengthening the reporting requirements for entities that are currently required to report any evidence of sexual abuse in girls age 12 or younger. ... The legislation would amend the CPSL to say that ... the presence of a sexually transmitted disease in or the pregnancy of a child 12 or younger shall constitute clear and convincing evidence of child abuse. ... The legislation would require health care workers treating a child for a sexually transmitted disease or pregnancy ... to determine whether a child is age 12 or younger. ... The health care practitioner would have to report unless they can ... obtain credible evidence that the child is 13 years of age or older. ... There are also DNA collection requirements for babies when the mother is 12 years or younger. Failure of health care practitioners to comply with the varied provisions of the law would constitute a 3rd degree felony (graduated with each incident of failure to comply). Senator Eichelberger has previously introduced companion legislation.

COSTS STUDY COMMISSION - In December, the Pennsylvania Senate adopted a resolution introduced by Senator Argall calling for the creation of ... a commission of private and public sector cost - minded leaders of this Commonwealth to study the management of current government operations and to make recommendations of cost-cutting measures. ... That Commission has been almost fully constituted and it will begin its work on Friday on target to make recommendations to the Senate by June 30th. Its recommendations are to identify specific ways to ... cut costs, increase efficiency, consolidate like functions, return functions and job creation opportunities to the private sector and eliminate functions. ... To learn more about the membership of the Commission click here.

DEFINITION OF CHILD ABUSE - Senate Bill 1190 would amend the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) to add a new definition of child abuse related to when a baby tests positive at birth for a controlled substance unless the controlled substance is present ... as a result of the mother’s lawful intake of such substance as prescribed. ... The prime sponsor is Senator Pat Vance. The bill is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

DEPENDENT CHILD DEFINITION - Senate Bill 1191 introduced by Senator Pat Vance would add a definition to dependent child within the Juvenile Act to include: a child who ... is a newborn and receives a diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome or tests positive for any amount of an illegal controlled substance, unless the child tests positive for a controlled substance as a result of the mother's lawful intake of such substance as prescribed. The bill is pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

ESSENTIAL PROGRAMS FUND - Senate Aging and Youth Committee Chair Kim Ward has introduced Senate Bill 1127 creating and Essential Programs Fund. The fund would be tapped at a time where a state budget has not been enacted by August 15th to pay up to ninety percent of the amount in the prior fiscal year ... to the essential programs. ... Among the essential programs that would have to be paid for during a budget impasse: subsidized child care, transitional food and shelter programs, foster care and adoption, protective care, access-to-care providers.

EXTENDING STATE FISCAL RELIEF - Extending State Fiscal Relief - PA children and families have experienced cuts as part of the most recent state budget BUT those cuts were blunted, in part, by the fact that Congress and President Obama enacted an economic recovery and reinvestment act that wisely invested in children, families as well as state and local governments. State fiscal relief, including the temporary enhancement of the federal Medicaid match rate (the federal government picked up more of the costs for Medicaid as well as certain child welfare services) infused nearly $4 billion into Pennsylvania’s budget during a 27 month period (including the current fiscal year). An enhanced FMAP not only assured that children had access to health care even when mom or dad lost their paycheck, that children were safe (and at home) even as families experienced fiscal crisis, but also provided insulation to the entire state budget so that cuts to every department, in every service area did not need to occur (or become deeper). Congress intended the relief to be temporary so it is set to expire in 2010 (before the end of the 2010-2011 state fiscal year) but Congress also expected that the Great Recession would have subsided and economic recovery would be well underway in 2010. The Recession is over but the rebound is far from a reality for Main Street families so it is appropriate and necessary for Congress to offer some additional temporary help to families. Here are a few reminders of how tough times remain for children and families:

  • Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate rose in December to 8.9 percent. The state’s unemployment rate has increased by more than 4 percent since the recession’s onset in 2007.

  • As of January, more than 1,554 million Pennsylvanians - 12.5 percent of the state’s population - were receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (formerly Food Stamps);

  • Enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program continues to climb - increasing by more than 12,000 over the past year to its current level of 196,220;

  • Over 2.1 million citizens of the state (17.5 percent) are eligible for Medicaid - nearly 1.1 million of whom are children;

  • Together, CHIP and Medicaid are covering about 44 percent of the Commonwealth’s children;

  • Demand at local food banks and health centers has been staggering and reports of suspected child abuse and domestic violence homicides have increased over the last year.

DISABLED YOUTH TRANSITIONING FROM FOSTER CARE - Last month, the Social Security Administration (SSA) issued policy guidelines stipulating that disabled youth soon to transition from foster care can apply for SSI benefits up to 90 days before their federal foster care payments are expected to cease. The policy is an attempt to ensure that disabled youth exiting foster care can ... make the transition to adult life by helping to insure that they have income and health benefits in place. ... Also last month, Senator Washington introduced legislation ( SB 1184) related to required screening by the county of a transitioning youth’s eligibility for SSI.

INVOLUNTARY TERMINATION OF PARENTAL RIGHTS - House Bill 967 sponsored by Representative Cohen amends the CPSL with regard to the grounds for the involuntary termination of parental rights to include when a person has been convicted of rape, statutory sex assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault or an attempt to solicitation of these offenses and the victim was the child of the person convicted. This effort seeks to amend the ... aggravating circumstances ... language of the Juvenile Act into the CPSL. The bill also would seek to mirror the Juvenile Act with regard to reasonable efforts not being required when a court has determined there are aggravating circumstances. The bill had been scheduled for a meeting of the House Judiciary Committee but the meeting was canceled as a result of the recent snow storms.

MANDATED CHILD ABUSE REPORTER TRAINING - Senate Bill 1137, which will be the subject of a public hearing of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee on March 11th, requires the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to consult with the Department of Education (PDE) to create ... a child abuse recognition and reporting program ... that includes a training component for school personnel or those under contract with a school entity. Such education related reporters would be required to complete a minimum of three hours of training every five years. The legislation has been endorsed by PA Family Support Alliance and introduced by Senator Pat Vance.

NOTICE TO EMPLOYERS @ INDICATED/FOUNDED CASES OF CHILD ABUSE - HB 1051 builds upon the effort of Representative Sturla from last session to require that county children and youth agencies provide notice to employers of ... child care ... or school personnel when an investigation of suspected child abuse has resulted in a substantiated report (indicated or founded) of abuse. The notice is to occur (assuming that the CYS agency knows the employment information of the person under investigation) after ... final administrative determination by the department. ... The contents of the report to be provided to the employer must be limited to ... the employee's suitability in the workplace and to the protection of the health, safety and welfare of the children in the employee's workplace. ... On June 3rd, the bill was amended to stipulate that persons seeking to be employed in a school setting cannot be approved for employment if they have a ... founded ... report of child abuse within the five years preceding their application for employment. It also allows that no contest pleas are to be included in the ... finding ... that can be the catalyst to a founded report. The bill has bounced on and off the calendar since that time with its status now being ... removed from the table ... as of January 26, 2010.

PREVENTION COSTS & BENEFIT STUDY - Representative Julie Harhart, who was instrumental to the creation and resulting 2002 recommendations of the Joint State Government Commission’s (JSGC) Task Force/Advisory Committee on Services to Children and Youth, is also now seeking to direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to ... investigate the costs and benefits of prevention and early intervention programs for the children and youth ... of the Commonwealth. House Resolution 72 would require that a LBFC study identify all existing federal, state and county funding streams ... provided for programs to delinquent and dependent youth, mental health and drug and alcohol services and schools ... and then fashion recommendations about ... how to create incentives for the adoption and implementation of evidence-based prevention, intervention, and treatment programs. ... It has been situated in the House Children and Youth Committee since its introduction in 2009.

REPORTING/INVESTIGATING ALLEGED ABUSE BY SCHOOL PERSONNELL - Senator Fontana will shortly unveil legislation that will once again seek to have the reporting and investigation of suspected child abuse handled the same regardless of the alleged perpetrator. So if there is suspected child abuse by a person employed at a school, ChildLine could accept the report and it would be assigned to CYS for investigation. Currently such reports are able to be handled by ChildLine (and CYS) only if the alleged abuse rises to the level of ... seriously bodily injury ... or involves sexual abuse or exploitation. This reintroduction of Senate Bill 26 incorporates changes advocated by the PA School Boards Association and the Disability Rights Network. Specific to DRN’s advocacy the revised bill would require that when CYS is called in to investigate the alleged abuse of a student who is a disabled child, CYS ... inform the state protection and advocacy system. ...

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