Petrarca bill would enhance caseworkers’ access to information in child abuse cases |

Petrarca bill would enhance caseworkers’ access to information in child abuse cases

Deb Erdley
Stephanie Merrill, of Dillsburg, Pa., a volunteer with the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, helps plant flags, Downtown, on April 10, 2019. In total 4,693 blue ribbon flags were planted along Grant Street representing the amount of child abuse cases reported annually in Pennsylvania.

More than a year and a half after a state audit found child welfare workers were underpaid and ill-equipped to deal with an increasing tide of abuse complaints, a Westmoreland County lawmaker has sponsored a bill to give caseworkers access to more information about at-risk children.

The bill sponsored by state Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Washington Township, calls for providing caseworkers with access to all records, including medical and education records, concerning children who are the subject of child welfare investigations.

The measure that was approved by the House Children and Youth Committee on Monday was among a number of recommendations Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale made following a 2017 audit report that found 46 children died and 79 sustained serious injuries the prior year even as the state spent nearly $2 billion on child protective services.

Petrarca said House Bill 835 would close a loophole that gives caseworkers access to medical records in one section of the law but provides no authority for them to access school records or records relating to drug and alcohol treatment.

“In order for caseworkers to make the best decisions for these children, they need a complete and accurate picture of what’s going on inside a child’s home,” Petrarca said in a statement announcing his proposal.

He said the additional information would add a layer of protection for children and help authorities sort out false reports.

DePasquale applauded the proposal that now heads to the full House.

“Giving caseworkers access to key records in the course of an investigation can help them to better understand exactly what challenges an at-risk child is up against and take appropriate action,” DePasquale said. “I urge the House to approve this measure and send it to the Senate.”

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: News | Pennsylvania
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