DFS: Child Abuse Reporting Well Understood In Wyoming

DFS: Child Abuse Reporting Well Understood In Wyoming

The recent scandal at Penn State University involving sexual abuse of children by a former coach has caused Pennsylvania to review its child abuse reporting laws.

A new push for a law that would require any individual who witnesses an abuse to report it to the police is receiving support in Pennsylvania.

Current law for someone in a public or private institution, medical facility or school facility who witnesses an abuse says that person must report to their supervisor, but not to police.

In Wyoming, state law holds everyone to the same standard when it comes to reporting the abuse of children.

Pam Emerson with the Department of Family Services says that Wyoming state statute regarding reporting incidents pretty much covers all bases.

In an educational or a public facility, like the incident at Penn State, most times protocols exist requiring someone with knowledge to report that incident to their superior.

In the case of Jerry Sandusky, who is accused of 40 counts of child sex abuse, Pennsylvania law only required a witness, Mike McQueary, to report to his immediate supervisor but not to the police.

Emerson explains that these protocols only exist in addition to Wyoming law.

Wyoming statute goes even further to make it against the law for someone reporting an incident to receive backlash in any way from their employer. That could be anything from legal action to job dismissal.

A Penn State janitor reportedly witnessed Sandusky and a boy in 2000 and did not report to superiors or police out of fear of losing his job.

Along with protections from employer retaliation in Wyoming state law, reporters are protected by privacy statement with DFS. Emerson says this combination gives the public more anonymity and an assurance that they will not be retaliated against.

Sheridan Representative Jon Botten, a 20-year lawyer, said questioning laws nationwide occurs as fallout of a national incident like the one at Penn State. He said it's important to balance the facts and see if there is a problem in a respective area before making new laws.

He gave the example of “Caylee's Law”, considered earlier this year in Wyoming, which came as a result of the Casey Anthony trial, which would have made it a felony for a parent not to report a child missing within 24 hours. Legislators rejected the draft bill after Wyoming county prosecutors said the law wasn't needed.

As for current incident reporting laws in Wyoming, Emerson says DFS in Sheridan County gets an average of about 50 report calls per month, and she believes not only is the law thorough, the public has good knowledge of it.

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