Our opinion: A positive step

Often it takes a slap in the face to wake a community up to a problem that has been generally recognized, but not really understood for its scale.

Such is the case with child abuse.

Sure, it’s a problem that has been with us and has been recognized by government for a long time.

But, it was the highly egregious and highly publicized Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal that prompted a close look by the Pennsylvania General Assembly at how the system in place for detecting and reacting to child abuse is handled in the Commonwealth.

That examination turned up some weaknesses in the system.

As a result of that introspection, the legislature this week sent to Gov. Tom Corbett a bill, which he is sure to sign, that will expand the state’s programs that help to detect and prevent child abuse.

Currently there are 21 regional centers which bring together experts from various fields to to help abused children. In addition to expanding that number, the legislation fosters the use of interdisciplinary teams to investigate possible child abuse cases.

All of this comes with a cost, of course, but paying the estimated $2 million bill will be handled with a $10 surcharge on the cost of obtaining duplicate birth certificates.

Will this legislation eliminate child abuse in Pennsylvania? No one is naive enough to believe that.

However, detection is a huge hurdle in the fight against this crime, and, as we learned in the Sandusky case the responsibility for reporting can be muddled in bureaucracy.

This legislation is a step in the right direction.