A Safer Tomorrow for Pennsylvania Children & the Safe Child Act

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Family Court & Custody Crisis: We need the Safe Child Act

Generally, custody is resolved with minor problems, and while it might not be perfect, parents settle into something that works for the children. But there is a subset of  cases where there are claims of abuse during litigation which represents 2.8% of custody litigation. Statistically false claims are rare. Statistically, in 85% of these specific subset cases involving claims of abuse, it is the abusive parent who wins custody, while the good faith parent, who has committed no crime against society or their child, is left powerless. In many cases there are well documented reports from trauma specialists and medical doctor that abuse has occurred. However, because of an outdated family court protocol, dating back to the early 1970s when there wasn’t much research on the effects of domestic abuse, children are routinely put at risk by judges. The current protocol is failing this subset of children.

 The murder of three-year-old Kelly Williams, by her father, in April of 2017 in York County, PA. is one example. After Kelly's mom told the judge that Frank Williams was dangerous, had threatened to kill her family, and she had concerns for Kelly's safety, the judge ordered shared custody. This legal decision lead to Kelly's death. There is no getting around it. 

 In retrospect, it’s easy for any of us to say that Frankie Williams was dangerous; he had abused his partner, and he shouldn’t have had contact with Kelly. But legally, things that cause permanent harm to children, like domestic violence and direct abuse, are given the same weight as lesser things like a lack of health insurance, which was a factor in this case. Kelly's mom didn't have health insurance for Kelly. The death or abuse of any child is tragic, but preventable abuse and deaths even more so. Kelly William’s death was preventable.

 As tragic as this case is, it is not an isolated case. We have found a dozen other children in Pennsylvania who have been murdered by a parent during custody conflict or litigation since 2009.

Pennsylvania is now poised to prevent the abuse, trauma, and deaths of this subset of children who find themselves in the family court system when strangers make decisions for them. But the larger picture of child abuse is immeasurable, and everyone can agree that greater protection is needed for the entire scope of child abuse.

In Pennsylvania, and across the U.S., children are routinely ordered into the custody of dangerous parents who have harmed the child or the other parent at a rate of approximately 58,000 a year. These are the numbers that make the radar. Realistically, the total numbers are likely to be millions each year. Using this number with Pennsylvania being the 6th most populated state, this accounts for approximately 7,367 Pennsylvania children who have been forced to live with their abuser in one year, and it is likely a low end number. While we can't protect undisclosed child abuse and child sexual abuse, we can protect 7,367 that do disclose.

Protect Children Not Predators!

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