ATLANTA (March 28, 2016) | The Georgia State Senate approved legislation that will strengthen child abuse statutes and offer further protections for both victims and reporters. House Bill 905 also clarifies definitions, establishes a public scorecard for child welfare agencies and sets new regulations for creating protocol committees on child abuse. The legislation passed by a vote of 45 to 0 and was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Charlie Bethel (R – Dalton).
“Reporters of abuse should not feel afraid to come forward when the wellbeing of a child is at stake, and it is important to protect their good faith intentions. The fight to end child abuse heavily relies on help of these individuals, as well as the agencies and judicial circuits who oversee the cases. We need to continue doing everything possible to increase accountability measures and rehabilitative programs, as well as strengthen the punishments, associated with child abuse,” said Sen. Bethel.
House Bill 905 offers new protections for reporters of child abuse that temporarily possess illegal images or materials for this reason. The report must be made within 72 hours of the point at which it can be reasonably believed the materials were obtained. This provision will safeguard those who act in good faith when reporting suspected child abuse.
The legislation also amends Code Section 19-15-2 regarding the establishment of protocol committees on child abuse. If a judicial circuit includes multiple counties, the protocol committee may determine whether a protocol committee is necessary for each county within the circuit, or if one protocol committee adequately meets the needs of the entire circuit. In addition, the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) will be required to work with relevant agencies to develop a child welfare agency scorecard. The scorecard must be publicly available and updated within 30 days after a determination is made. House Bill 905 also revises terms, definitions and fines related to child abuse.
HB 905 now transfers to Governor Deal for his signature.
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For Immediate Release:
March 28, 2016
For Information Contact:
Jennifer Yarber, Director