During my time in the Legislature, I have sponsored a number of bills aimed at cracking down on child sexual assault. It is very important to me that we make Maine a safe state for our children. Keeping children safe is a collective responsibility - and as adults, it is our obligation to ensure that we do all that we can to protect children from predators of all kinds.
Beyond what I see as a moral obligation to report child abuse, there is also a legal responsibility to do so if you are someone who is deemed a “mandated reporter.” Mandated reporters are people who are required to report cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. There are more than 32 categories of mandatory reporters including clergy, bus drivers, school officials, doctors, camp counselors, and law enforcement to name a few. Even with such a wide swath of mandated reporters, there are still many cases of child abuse, especially child sexual assault cases that go unreported. Often times, mandated reporters don’t feel comfortable making such serious reports due to a lack of training or are reluctant to get involved.
In 2013, over 19,000 reports of suspected child abuse were made to Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child and Family Services. How many were not reported?
We know that these reports of abuse are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to child abuse. We know from the Penn State-Jerry Sandusky case that too often reports of abuse get lost up the chain intentionally and otherwise. We can make no more excuses for signs of abuse that go unreported or investigated. Too many kids are suffering and are in danger.
This session, I am sponsoring a measure to decrease barriers to the intervention of child abuse so that the mandated reporters retain their individual responsibility to report the suspected abuse.
During the public hearing on my bill LD 199, “An Act to Improve the Reporting of Child Abuse,” Irving Faunce and Jan Collins, the grandparents of Ethan Henderson, a two month old baby who was fatally injured by his father, provided compelling and tearful testimony in support of my measure.
Jan Collins said, “The law as written is failing Maine’s children. There has to be a way of ensuring that the reports get made - that they don’t languish somewhere where they are not followed up on.”
Jan’s husband, Irving Faunce added, “I made a promise to Ethan: We would do whatever we could to prevent abuse from happening to anyone else and we would hold accountable those parts of the system that have failed him. Ethan’s death was preventable. And we are here to represent his memory.”
Child abuse has serious short- and long-term consequences. The sooner we intervene in child abuse cases, the more likely a child will experience less long-term consequences and can lead a healthy and loving life.
I am hopeful that my bill will gain support in the state’s Judiciary Committee as well as in the full legislative body.
If you have any questions about this bill or anything else going on in Augusta, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com or (207) 287-1515.