Vulakovich Looks To Tighten PA Child Protection Law

Feb 26, 2016

Legislation that was intended to require more people who work with children to get criminal background checks might have actually created a loophole for doctors and other hospital personnel.

“Something just got lost” when the bill was crafted, said state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, an Allegheny County Republican.

The bill was one of 20 approved over the last three years to update the Child Protective Services Law in the wake of the child molestation scandal involving former Pennsylvania State University Assistant Football Coach Jerry Sandusky.

According to Vulakovich, the potential loophole was called to his attention by a constituent – a doctor – who told the senator that he interpreted the language of the new legislation to not include physicians and other hospital workers who care for children. The original law required background checks for these health care providers.

“Sometimes when (the crafters of legislation) draw something up, they say, ‘This is already in the law. We don’t have to put it back in this piece of legislation, because it’s already in law.’ Somewhere things just got screwed up,” Vulakovich said.

The intent of the legislation was to require that additional people who work with children undergo criminal background checks, including volunteers at nonprofit organizations. They must be re-certified every 36 months, Vulakovich said.

He and Democratic Sen. John Sabatina of Philadelphia are looking to introduce a new bill to provide a “technical fix,” which Vulakovich said “will make clear” that doctors must undergo background checks, too.

He said there’s been little resistance to the mandate beyond concerns about the relative convenience of carrying out the routine checks.

“Sometimes you just can’t; it’s something you just have to do," he said. "Most people realize there are issues that have to be addressed, and there’s a little, sometimes a little bit of sacrifice you have to go through.”

Vulakovich said he expects bipartisan support.

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