The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 27, 2013

Keeping kids safe


The Register-Herald

— The Select Committee on Child Abuse and the Women’s Caucus in the West Virginia Legislature have been spending the past few months digging deeply into the gritty facts behind the major problem of abuse towards minors in West Virginia.

We applaud them for bringing in specialists, State Police and other experts to discuss the many factors that contribute to every facet into reporting and prosecuting cases of child abuse.

Recently, one of the members of the caucus, Delegate Linda Phillips, D-Wyoming, spoke to The Register-Herald expressing how West Virginia state code is limited in what it can do to protect children.

Thankfully, they are bringing this issue to light by proposing a new level of legislation that will provide a set of laws that will charge potential abusers with misdemeanors.

The article reminds us that occasionally, a parent might get embroiled in household activities, and may for one moment lose track of their child. That child may find itself in a precarious situation that is pointed out by a neighbor to authorities. We understand that for some parents, this one moment can be terrifying and a complete accident.

As the law stands now, such an incident can only be charged and tried as a felony. Hardly a fair consequence for a parent who is trying hard and has made a mistake they are not likely to make again.

This new proposed legislation would create an opportunity for a “wake-up” call by authorities. Now the local law enforcement is aware of potential issues and Child Protective Services is on alert. Prosecutors have more in their pocket when it comes to prosecuting these types of cases.

It’s a good level of legislation that could help put proper authorities on alert for a child’s well being and can only benefit children who may be in harm’s way.

Additionally, the committee is looking at making the penalties even tougher when abuse leads to a child’s death.

The SCCA and the Women’s Caucus have found some puzzling things in state code that hinder law enforcement from properly completing their investigations in their battle against the abuse of West Virginia’s children.

Phillips says this is just the beginning. They are set to continue to bring in more experts and witnesses to testify before them to shed an even greater light on the subject. We salute them for tackling this troubling and growing epidemic.

Attention child abusers: the committee’s good work has just begun.