COLUMN: Laws created more child sex abuse crimes, still more needs to change

— Studies suggest that in recent years, people are more likely to report abuse. This is part in thanks to society being more aware of these crimes. I have urged the Governor, along with my Assembly colleagues, to declare April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in New York State. These declarations remind us that there are still young victims who need help and protection. I want to remind you that if you see abuse or suspect it, you may call 1-800-342-3720, a hotline managed by New York State Office of Children and Family Services.

I have also signed onto legislation that requires when a call made to the Statewide Central Register for Child Abuse and Maltreatment is made by a mandated reporter who works in a hospital (such as a physician, registered nurse, physician’s assistant, social worker, psychologist or other hospital personnel working with a patient) or by a law enforcement official—such calls shall not be screened. Rather, they would immediately be made into a report of abuse and transmitted to the appropriate local social services district for investigation. Currently, mandatory reporters are required to also dial the above 1-800 number and report suspected abuse. The State Central Registry screens these calls; however, this bill would eliminate the state’s screening process for the aforementioned callers and refer suspected abuse to the local authorities immediately. From there, an investigation is supposed to be launched.

This bill has a long history and has passed the Senate several times, but has died in the Assembly Committee of Children and Families. It is unclear to me why the Assembly Democrat Majority refuses to put this bill to a vote. I am hopeful this bill can pass both houses and be signed into law this year. In many of these cases, fast action is required and eliminating a state screening process will allow the local authorities to receive reports sooner and, presumably, act faster. The bill would also establish better protocols among mandated reporters, medical and law enforcement who respond to reports of abuse. If we can improve protocols, we can better ensure more children’s safety and prevent further abuse and even tragedy.

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