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State Lawmakers in Dueling Efforts to Fix Child Protection Infrastructure

A state Senate Republican is making a concerted push for the cautious approach when it comes to child protection legislation.

House lawmakers are poised to advance a number of proposals intended to make children safer in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky abuse case.

But at a joint committee hearing this week, GOP state Sen. Bob Mensch of Montgomery County said he’s taking to heart advice from others not to rush anything that could add to the burden of local child welfare offices.  

"This is the first step, not the last step," he said.

By contrast, the House GOP has signaled a desire to step up the pace, noting April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The chamber recently marshaled the support of the state attorney general in its effort to pass a measure that makes it easier for law enforcement to get identifying information of suspected child exploiters directly from Internet providers.

Dr. Cindy Christian, a Philadelphia-area pediatrician who served on the task force created to study the state’s child protection system, noted the roughly 20 proposals moving on parallel tracks in the House and in the Senate.

"What I don’t have to have lost in all of the conversation is that I think of that report and these bills as pieces of a puzzle, and they work well because you need to have all the pieces in place for you to make a puzzle that actually makes sense," she said.

Christian says one key step to better protecting children is to improve communication between child welfare officers and doctors, who she said often withhold information out of fear of violating patient privacy regulations, commonly referred to as HIPAA.

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