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December 13, 2011

In Penn State's wake, Mikulski explores child abuse law

As the Penn State child sex abuse scandal began to wind its way through court on Monday, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski held a hearing on an underlying issue raised in the case: Whether federal child abuse laws are adequately protecting children from abuse.

“There have been too many examples in our recent history where children have been subjected to double abuse,” the Maryland Democrat said at a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families, which she chairs.

“They are victimized by the initial abuse and then are victimized a second time when the abuse is overlooked, ignored or covered up in order to protect institutions that many consider beyond reproach or ‘too big to fail.’”

The hearing came on the same day that former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was expected to face several of his accusers in court. At the last minute, however, he waived his right to the preliminary hearing. Sandusky, who has denied wrongdoing, faces multiple charges of child sex abuse in a scandal that has forced the university’s president and longtime coach, Joe Paterno, to resign.

Mikulski said that the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the 1974 federal law that sets reporting procedures for states, may need to be updated. The law provides funding to states that enact procedures for responding to allegations of child abuse and neglect and that define who must report abuse, she said.

“It is my belief that every adult should be required to report known or suspected child abuse regardless of whether the abuser is a parent, caregiver, coach or teacher. If you see something, you should say something,” she said.

Mikulski, who spent two years as a child neglect social worker in Baltimore, said Maryland has mandatory reporting requirements for all adults -- not just parents and caregivers – but said there are no criminal and civil penalties in place for non-reporting, which she argues renders the requirements “essentially unenforceable.”

Posted by John Fritze at 12:14 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Washington


There is nothing more obscene then a political hack interjectiing herself in something she knows nothing about. For starters, Mr. Sandusky hasn't been convicted of anything yet, regardless what the media and this drooling troll say. I suggest she stick to what she does best. Taxing and spending taxpayers money that we don't have and is / was borrowed from China.

Useful law, but once again our politicians, knowing the situation, act afterwards. Is this an election year?

I reiterate the story of an offender in a group therapy setting who withheld information about abuse because he knew it would have to be reported. WIthout proper clinical intervention and treatment, the offender went on to reoffend against more victims. So here we have a case in which reporting laws actually FACILITATED abuse.

If Senator Mikulski wants to protect children, she should start with those children who are berated and psychologically damaged because their parent appears on the sex offender registry along with 7,500 other Marylanders.

Thanks for covering the hearing today! My organization sees day after day exactly what Sen. Mikulski describes: “They are victimized by the initial abuse and then are victimized a second time when the abuse is overlooked, ignored or covered up in order to protect institutions that many consider beyond reproach or ‘too big to fail.’”

Ms. Mikulski worked as a child welfare social worker in Baltimore and understands the child welfare system very well. She asked very insightful questions during the hearing and appeared willing to seriously consider the testimony of the expert panel and any flaws in the proposed legislation. The hearing was less about Sandusky himself and more about what responsibility adults have to protect children. Starting this dialougue is a step in the right direction and with further discussion there can be some evidence based, data driven legislation introduced that will help make reporting easier and more compelling for adults who witness abuse.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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