CHILD ABUSE BILL PASSES (Agencies doing business with Suffolk must report allegations)
A bill requiring agencies doing business with the county to report suspicions of child sexual abuse to Child Protective Services, despite objections from Parents for Megan's Law advocates who called the legislation toothless, was passed by Suffolk lawmakers yesterday. The version passed orders managers at contracting agencies to report suspected abuse by any of their employees to the New York State Child Protective Services Child Abuse Registry or face escalating penalties and mandated child sex abuse prevention education. Legis. Jon Cooper sponsored the initiative, which originally would have denied county funding to any agency that failed to report suspicions of abuse by any of its employees. Laura Ahearn, President of Suffolk's Parents for Megan's Law, which makes information on convicted sex offenders available to the public, said Cooper had chipped away at his original legislation, diluting its punitive powers and installing a weak education component. This has become a toothless tiger, Ahearn said. There is nothing left here to prevent child sexual abuse. She said the county should instead require child sex abuse prevention training for all those subject to the reporting requirements. If you're going to weaken the penalty, then restore the proactive element of education, she said. She also recommended that reports go to local law enforcement agencies instead of the state registry. Members of other child sex abuse prevention agencies, however, called the law an effective tool in protecting children.