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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 29, 2019 05:31 PM
From: Representative Tarah Toohil and Rep. Karen Boback
To: All House members
Subject: Establishing an Interbranch Commission on Child Welfare
Establishing an Interbranch Commission on the Child Welfare System
Please join us in co-sponsoring the Interbranch Commission on the Child Welfare system. This legislation will establish a 17 member joint legislative, executive and judicial commission to investigate and analyze recommend improvements to the system. This body is patterned after the Interbranch Commission for Juvenile Justice, which did an outstanding job of investigating the horrific circumstances of the Kids-for-Cash scandal in Luzerne County. That commission developed an extensive series of reform recommendations, the majority of which were implemented through legislation or by rule.

This week the abuse, rape and murder of 14 year old Grace Packer was highlighted in the news as one of her killers was sentenced to death yesterday. Young Grace’s short life had multiple contacts with the Department of Human Service and Children & Youth systems that should have protected her. Sara Packer and her first husband were approved as foster homes and an adoptive home. She had been a Supervisor for Children & Youth. Later she was listed in the ChildLine database and is reported to have been named as a perpetrator by omission in 2010 after a child abuse investigation revealed that Grace had been sexually abused by her adoptive father, David Packer. https://www.philly.com/news/grace-packer-death-sara-admits-participation-testimony-jacob-sullivan-20190320.html
Grace’s life is a grim example of what happens when a child falls through the cracks. In a victim-impact letter read in court, Grace’s 14-year-old brother asked that his sister be remembered beyond the gruesome details of her death, and that measures be taken to protect other children from abuse. “I want you to find a way to watch out for all kids," he wrote to the court. “Please, this will help me heal.

The Auditor General releases the State of the Child Report: A look at the strengths and challenges Pennsylvania’s child-welfare system and the safety of at-risk children.

In the 1998 Report of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Select Committee, State Representative Katie True dedicated the report to a young sixteen-month old boy named Maxwell Fisher who had been brutally murdered. His death was preventable, and he and his family had received services from several agencies including Children & Youth.
Representative True said it then and it bears repeating, “we, as legislators, are in the process of improving the plight of abused children in Pennsylvania. The line, from Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, reads ‘…and miles to go before I sleep.’ There is so much more that can be done, that must be done, to protect our children.”

Now in the year 2019, twenty-one years later, in light of the children that still are out there and still need better protection, please join us in co-sponsoring this Interbranch Commission on the Child Welfare System.