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Kauffman Bill Offering Greater Protection to PA Children Passes State House
4/24/2017
Franklin County child’s death spurred legislation to ensure greater safety of all PA youth
HARRISBURG – Following a tragic case in Franklin County involving the death of a young boy, Rep. Rob Kauffman (R-Franklin), with the input of Franklin County District Attorney Matt Fogal, authored legislation to place stronger penalties on those who put children in harm’s way. House Bill 217 has been approved by the House of Representatives.

The legislation would better ensure that parents, guardians or those charged with the care of a child would face harsher penalties in cases of child endangerment if the child was under the age of 6, if the endangerment resulted in serious injury or death, or if the endangerment was part of a continuing course of conduct.

“We read tragic headlines every day of young children being harmed, and even killed, in senseless situations that could have been prevented with better oversight by their caregivers,” said Kauffman. “Unfortunately, these are often not one-time occurrences, but the result of a pattern of behavior by a caregiver that sets in motion a recipe for disaster. My legislation addresses those situations.”

The Franklin County case that was the catalyst for the legislation took place in 2010 when an 11-month-old boy, Heath Ryder, was killed by a 9-year-old girl while being looked after by an adult caregiver. Although the girl was charged and went through the juvenile court system, the adult faced lesser charges, due to limitations in the current law.

“In all of my years serving as a prosecutor, this case was the most disturbing and greatly impacted me,” said Fogal. “Given the state of the law at the time, it is the sole case that I honestly felt the law and the criminal law process did not, and could not, deliver true justice to Heath’s grieving parents. The Ryder Family will forever hold a special place in my heart, and I’m very pleased that their hope that this tragedy would result in a positive legacy for Heath will be fulfilled. I thank the Ryders for their understanding along the way and also for their determination in pursuing this legislation, and Rep. Kauffman’s compassion and commitment to this family.”

Currently, a person who endangers the welfare of a child under the age of 18 can be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor, and if the conduct is part of a continuing course of conduct, the offense is graded as a third-degree felony.

House Bill 217 would make the following changes to the current law:

• An offense would be a third-degree felony if the person’s conduct created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.
• An offense would be a second-degree felony if the person’s conduct created a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury and was part of a course of conduct.
• The grading for any offense would be increased one level if the child victim is under the age of 6 at the time of the offense.

“The children of our state deserve the best protections possible,” said Kauffman. “This legislation will help ensure greater safety by making sure those who endanger children face increased penalties.

“I want to thank District Attorney Fogal for working with me to formulate this bill, and his support over the past several years as we worked to get the legislation passed into law,” concluded Kauffman.

Kauffman noted this legislation was passed by the state House last session, but stalled in the Senate. He is hopeful this year that the legislation will garner swift action in the Senate and be sent to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

Representative Rob Kauffman
89th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tricia Lehman
717.772.9840
tlehman@pahousegop.com
RepKauffman.com

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