Harrisburg – December 12, 2017 – Legislation authored by Sen. John Sabatina (D-Philadelphia) that would reform how child protective services records are handled was approved by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee today.
“The legislation is designed to provide additional safeguards for children,” Sabatina said. “The changes included in the legislation shore up the handling of child protective services records and plug a gap that may leave certain children exposed to dangerous circumstances.”
The measure (Senate Bill 938) would extend the expungement time for records held in the Statewide Database from five to 10 years or until the child is 23 years of age, while allowing information regarding protective services to be maintained on the county database. The information on the county database would be viewable by county child welfare administers and law enforcement, but it would not be accessible by the public or for background check requests or review.
“Handling records in this manner protects children by ensuring that these records are available for inspection by county child welfare administrators,” Sabatina said.
Sabatina said the change in procedure is necessary as a result of the establishment of the state law that created the Statewide Database of Protective Services within the Department of Human Services. The language in the enabling statute requires counties to delete records when information is deleted from the state database.
A report by the Center for Children’s Justice cited a tragic case in Crawford County that focused attention on the data availability issue. A special report earlier this year from the state’s Auditor General’s office called the child welfare system “broken”.
Sabatina partnered with state Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny) in sponsoring the measure. Both Sabatina and Vulakovich have experience in the justice system. Sabatina served as assistance district attorney in Philadelphia, while Vulakovich was a police officer in suburban Pittsburgh.
Act 29, which created the current data retention system, was a product of the comprehensive effort by the General Assembly to upgrade child protective statutes in the wake of the infamous Jerry Sandusky case. While the legislation addressed the need for a statewide database, it failed to include a provision that reports be “maintained indefinitely,” as recommended by the Task Force on Child Protection.
The bill was reported from committee on a unanimous vote.