Child Protection Legislation

Administrative staff, certain volunteers and university employees are no longer required by state law to be fingerprinted and submit to criminal history and child abuse background checks.

The tweaks to the child protection law were signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on July 1.

Lawmakers had beefed up background check requirements last legislative session in response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case. But some groups thought the changes went too far – like university professors who balked at having to be fingerprinted in order to teach their 17-year-old students.

The Pennsylvania House will take up a bill that makes some changes to the Child Protective Services Law. That is the law crafted after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

“This is the bill that clarifies the existing statute requiring employees and adult volunteers who work directly with children to obtain criminal background check clearances and child abuse clearances,” said Rep. Katharine Watson (R-Bucks), the bill’s sponsor. “The legislation further delineates who is and who is not subject to those requirements.”

Work still remains for state lawmakers on child protection legislation, in spite of the slew of bills signed by the governor last week.

The 10 proposals are the result of more than a year of work to tighten up the state’s child protection laws.

Central to the effort was a proposal to re-write the state’s legal definition of child abuse to make it less vague.

But Bucks County District Attorney Dave Heckler says there’s more to come.

A state Senate Republican is making a concerted push for the cautious approach when it comes to child protection legislation.

House lawmakers are poised to advance a number of proposals intended to make children safer in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky abuse case.

But at a joint committee hearing this week, GOP state Sen. Bob Mensch of Montgomery County said he’s taking to heart advice from others not to rush anything that could add to the burden of local child welfare offices.  

"This is the first step, not the last step," he said.