In Pennsylvania, most professionals who come in contact with children are required to report suspected child abuse. As a direct response to the sex abuse scandal at Penn State University, the state legislature has created the Task Force on Child Protection.
The ten members will review current state policies governing child protection, the reporting of child abuse, and propose suggestions to improve the system. Four members were appointed by Governor Tom Corbett, and three each by the House and Senate.
Dr. Rachel Berger, a Child Protection team member at Pittsburgh's Children's Hospital, was selected by Senate leaders. "I think [child abuse] has been an issue for a long time," Berger said. "I think that the idea that we've been asking for a Task Force and also for an ombudsman for many years and I do think that the Sandusky case was a tipping point. It's not to say that nobody has ever cared about child abuse before, but it has not been a priority."
Berger says that Pennsylvania's child protection policies differ from other states, and suggests that the Task Force may fix the problem through various things outlined by Governor Corbett such as defining child abuse, increasing accountability and transparency in the system and strengthening the mandatory reporting laws. "I tell people, you know, that we were one of the first states to have child protection laws, and we were really ahead of the curve. Unfortunately, those laws haven't changed very much, and now if you look at other states we're not ahead of the curve anymore."
William Strickland, President and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation, is one of the governor's selections for the panel. He believes that his 40 years of educational experience with the Bidwell Training Center in Pittsburgh will assist in the commission's efforts.
"My background in education and working with young people will be a contributing factor in my role in the commission, I am certain of that," Strickland said.
Strickland noted that in 40 years at Bidwell there has not been an alcohol, drug, or police incident despite being located in the inner city.
"We know how to create safe and nurturing environments for people in the city and I'm very proud of that," Strickland said.
Strickland adds that he hopes to see a positive change in child protection policies. "I hope that many people, media included, will come to understand the work we do here in the city on behalf of people who have been disadvantaged, and that there will be greater evidence that suggests that we can be more effective in working on these environments."
There has been no timeline set for the Task Force's recommendations.
The four members appointed by the governor are:
- David W. Heckler, Bucks County District Attorney
- William Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corporation
- Dr. Cindy W. Christian, director of Safe Place: The Center for Child Protection and Health, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
- Delilah Rumburg, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Members selected by the Senate are:
- Dr. Rachel Berger, member of Child Protection Team at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
- Garrison Ipock Jr., executive director, the Glen Mills Schools, Glen Mills
- Carol Hobbs-Picciotto, MHS, Intake Social Worker, City of Philadelphia.
Members appointed by the House are:
- Jason Kutalakis, senior partner, Abom & Kutalakis LLP, Carlisle
- Jackie Bernard, Chief Deputy District Attorney, Blair County
- Arthur Grim, Senior Judge, Court of Common Pleas of Berks County.