Various organizations have called for the protection of children in view of allegations that eight children were subjected to sexual assault by a former football coach of Pennsylvania State University.

The following is their joint statement:

We, the undersigned, are deeply pained by the shocking allegations by at least eight children that they were sexually assaulted by a former Penn State University football coach.

We are equally disturbed by the fact that this serial abuse against children may have been widely known but not reported, even when it should have been. Also quite troubling is the fact that Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law – pre and post 2006 – did and does not go far enough to protect child victims like these.

In April, we joined together calling on Governor Tom Corbett and leaders of the General Assembly to create a Child Protection and Accountability Task Force.

We envisioned then, and with even greater urgency now, an objective and intentional effort that would bring together representatives of the Corbett Administration, the Pennsylvania Senate, Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and a panel of experts to examine and make timely recommendations about the very foundation of this state’s child protection efforts.

This Task Force would be directed to objectively examine core issues related to the defining, reporting and investigating of child abuse, as well as whether the response to child abuse is child-centered, with safety and well-being being paramount.

We renewed our call at an August hearing of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee.

It is our understanding that the Pennsylvania Senate, as a result of the leadership of Senator Kim Ward, is committed to a bipartisan review of these issues. We applaud her leadership and the Senate’s commitment to prioritize these important child protection issues.

Pennsylvania is a statistical outlier in the investigation and determination of child abuse, i.e., it investigates child abuse 8.3 per 1,000 children versus 40.3 per 1,000 children nationally, and then determines a child is a victim of child abuse 1.4 per 1,000 children versus 9.3 per 1,000 nationally.

As the nation was tragically reminded this past week, too often – despite a report of child abuse and investigation by a children and youth agency – Pennsylvania’s children remain exposed to repeated physical or sexual injury or a pattern of harm.

We believe that this past week’s Grand Jury Presentment reinforces the legitimacy of, and the need for, objective bipartisan and bi-cameral review of our state’s core front-end child welfare laws and practices.

We believe strengthened leadership within our Commonwealth is urgently needed to better protect our children. The Task Force we have called for is the first step in securing that leadership.

We stand ready and willing to work with Governor Corbett and his administration and the General Assembly to ensure that Pennsylvania becomes a national leader in how it promotes and measures the safety, well-being and permanency of our children.

Organizations calling for a Child Protection and Accountability Task Force include:

American Academy of Pediatrics – PA Chapter
Child Watch of Pittsburgh
Children’s Advocacy Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Children’s Alliance Center of Berks County
Children’s Coalition of the Lehigh Valley
Crime Victim Center of Erie County, Inc.
Dauphin County Victim Witness Assistance
Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids – Pennsylvania
Juvenile Law Center
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
Prevent Child Abuse PA
Support Center for Child Advocates