The headlines on child sex abuse have been dominated for years by issues from the Catholic Church, culminating with last year’s Oscar-winning movie, Spotlight. There have been other scandals, of course, like Penn State, the New England boarding schools, and the polygamist sects, among many, but the Catholic cases and issues have continually rolled into the headlines. The latest is that the Manhattan Archdiocese in New York is partially covering the cost of sex abuse claims there by getting a mortgage of $100 million on hotel property that it owns.
I am the last person to say that the Read more
Herculean efforts across the United States have been undertaken to eliminate the threshold legal barrier for most sex abuse victims: the statute of limitations. Some states have been very successful like Delaware and Minnesota while others remain mired in a system that blocks the vast majority of survivors like New York. To their credit, advocates, survivors, and their supporters continue to press even in the most backward states.
While a legislative push can be empowering for many survivors, it can also be traumatic when legislators irrationally reject the survivors’ pleas for justice. For example, Pennsylvania senators have professed allegiance to a non-existent Pennsylvania constitutional doctrine to avoid passing a bill that would revive expired SOLs for those who were shut out of the system. It is a cruel position that was captured beautifully in this political cartoon. Read more
A bipartisan bill brought forth by Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas and Democrat Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York would give judges the legal power to order the publication of names and photographs of those found guilty of buying sex from sex-trafficking victims.
Called the Shame Act of 2017, H.R. 440 simply amends existing child sex-trafficking law to allow the courts to order attorneys general to release to the public names and pictures of those convicted under the code. The basic idea is captured in the name of the act—to add an element of public shaming to the sentence in hopes would-be perpetrators might think twice. Read more
Sometimes I feel like I should pen a letter of apology to the Framers of the Constitution. They fundamentally understood that people are inevitably tempted to abuse power and that concentrations of power are dangerous. It was a fortuitous and sage combination of common sense and the Presbyterianism of Princeton at the time. To put it a bit more simply: power must be checked, or it will run amok, and that goes double for combinations of power. And, oh yes, those who have power will work hard to be unaccountable. Power without accountability is the gravest danger we can face.
With that as the foundation, we really should be able to do better. Instead, lawmakers are increasingly the unaccountable power-grabbing people the Framers warned us about. And nowhere are our elected officials failing more spectacularly right now than in the case of child sex abuse. Read more
On January 27, 2017, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Philadelphia gathered attorneys, child welfare professionals, and volunteers at Berger & Montague P.C. for a talk about the educational challenges vulnerable children in foster care face—and why there is cause for hope.
CASA Philadelphia trains and supports community volunteers to become sworn officers of the court to advocate for the safety, stability, health, and well-being of abused and neglected children in the foster care system. School stability is one such right that may get lost in the shuffle of more pressing concerns. Children who are removed from a parent or moved around in the foster care system may be transferred from a familiar school to one in which they have no connection and where their needs fail to be met. Read more
A handful of Republicans have signed on to a bill that would repeal portions of the 1990 Gun-Free Schools Zones Act, saying the federally imposed ban on carrying firearms within a certain distance of school campuses is “ineffective” and nonsensical.
The bill, H.R. 34, called the Safe Students Act, was introduced by Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie earlier this month. It’s a near carbon copy of the bill that Ron Paul, ex-congressman from Texas, tried to pass several years ago.
“Gun-free school zones are ineffective,” Massie said. “They make people less safe by inviting criminals into target-rich, no-risk environments. Gun-free zones prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves, and create vulnerable populations that are targeted by criminals.” Read more
Republicans would do well to catch up to the rest of the culture on the issues of sex assault and child sex abuse. They are quickly being outpaced by a society that no longer is willing to wink at the rapist or child abuser. Context for rape and child abuse no longer matters: the people are sick of child sex abuse and sex assault, period, whether it occurs in the religious, sports, school, university, or family arena. Smart politicians are seeing that this is a scourge with no political preference.
Yet, too many Republicans—with rare exceptions like Rep. Jason Spencer of Georgia and Rep. Deborah Hudson of Delaware—are responsible for blocking simple legislative change that would identify the hidden predators and provide justice to victims. And they are doing it for all the wrong reasons. Read more
It’s taken months, but a bill aimed at helping adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s who face risk of injury due to unaccompanied wandering – which was expanded to include children with autism — finally passed the House and now sits in the Senate for consideration.
H.R. 4919, the “Missing Alzheimer’s Disease Patient Alert Program Reauthorization Act of 2016,” also known as “Kevin and Avonte’s Law,” was introduced in the House in April as a grant program “to reduce injury and death of missing Americans with dementia and developmental disabilities,” the text stated. Section Two of the measure provides for education and outreach in conjunction with the activities of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, “including cases involving children with development disabilities such as autism,” the text continues. Read more
A House resolution aimed at speeding up and streamlining the adoption process through a federally reformed Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children is stuck in committee, awaiting leadership’s approval to move to the floor for debate and vote.
States already participate in an ICPC agreement that guides interstate adoptions, but years of tinkering has led to a watering down of the compact. As the American Public Human Service Association notes, the state-to-state adoption and child placement process is rife with delays, in part because of the many differences in jurisdictional standards.
The APHSA, in a policy brief about the ICPC process, wrote: “The 21st century has shown the ICPC to be one of the most antagonizing, antiquated, and burdensome administrative processes required as part of the child-placement continuum. With the complications Read more
In focus groups in Des Moines, Iowa, and Las Vegas, Nevada, a few years ago, voters were asked what their top issues were, but only one in each group of 20 mentioned an issue related to children. The economy, terrorism, the Middle East, and other issues were mentioned. Kids were an afterthought.
The focus group moderator and conservative communications strategist Frank Luntz proceeded to ask people — many parents, grandparents, and employees in professions that work with children — why they didn’t care about kids, and the participants became quite angry. “Why, of course, I care about kids!” several of them demanded. A few rose out of their chairs to further emphasize their passion for children. Read more