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No more time to waste aiding addicted newborns

The groups, Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, said, can set "the stage for smart policy, going forward, but it doesn't eliminate the need for a sense of urgency and guidance now."

The Daily Item Editorial | Dec. 18, 2017 | dailyitem.com |  Read More...

State moves to provide better guidance on how to care for substance-exposed babies

In 2016, there were 3,897 babies born in Pennsylvania who'd been exposed to illegal drugs during pregnancy, according to the Center for Children's Justice, based in Reading. That's more than 10 babies a day, and a 44 percent increase over the 2,706 babies born exposed to drugs in Pennsylvania three years ago.

That data was acquired by the group through formal Right-to-Know requests, Palm said. Her group first asked the state for the information in October, 2015, but the Department of Human Services didn't begin releasing the data to her group until January, 2016. "It took quite a bit of time to get any lens, urgency and strategy on a state level," Palm said.

John Finnerty CNHI Harrisburg Bureau | Dec. 17 | Sunbury Daily Item |  Read More...

Pa. Human Services is out-of-compliance with two state laws (column)

The editorial ("York County could have done more to help 3-year-old girl before father killed her, state finds") spotlighted the senseless murder-suicide that claimed the life of 3-year-old Kelly Williams. Between January and mid-November of this year, Williams was one of 217 children reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (PA DHS) for having died or nearly died in circumstances reported as suspected child abuse. It is unknown how many of those 217 children were determined to be victims of child abuse and which ones, if any, were previously known to the child welfare agency. This critical information remains a mystery, because PA DHS is out-of-compliance with two state laws.

Cathleen Palm | Dec. 5, 2017 | ydr.com |  Read More...

Officials disagreed on youth sex case

County leaders were not certain crime was committed

Cathleen Palm, founder of the Pennsylvania-based Center for Children's Justice, said when it comes to reporting and the law, now and in 2011, a mandated reporter doesn't have to know with certainty if what occurred is a criminal offense before reporting something, only that there is "a reasonable cause to suspect." The report will start the investigations by police or county child welfare agencies or both, she pointed out. Palm also pointed out the mindset in an organization that someone else has it covered and that it isn't reportable was prevalent before Sandusky. And while changes have been made to the law to hold people accountable by listing and enumerating who has an obligation to report such incidents, there is room for improvement, she said.

Greg Bock, Staff Writer | Dec. 4, 2017 | altoonamirror.com |  Read More...

Column Was Based on Incorrect Pennsylvania Statistics About Child Abuse Investigations

Recently Youth Today published a column ("Pennsylvania County Has Wildly High Rate of Needless Child Abuse Investigations") by Richard Wexler in which he wrote, "It is child welfare's equivalent of stop-and-frisk. It happens over and over again, it's traumatic, it's usually baseless and unnecessary, and it's racially biased. It is a child abuse investigation."

Wexler used his column to invite high emotion, telling readers that child welfare professionals routinely search homes in the "middle of the night" and strip-search children.

Wexler cited a special report released recently by Pennsylvania's auditor general.

In this report, the head of Cambria County's children and youth agency is quoted on page 27 as saying that caseworkers "saw" 9,840 "unduplicated" children during 2016 representing "37 percent of the entire population under age 18."

Wexler then declares that "virtually every impoverished child in Cambria County will have this state-sanctioned trauma inflicted upon her or him before reaching the age of 18."

Had he relied on any source beyond the auditor general's report, Wexler would have discovered the cited statistic was wrong.

Cathleen Palm | October 24, 2017 | Youth Today |  Read More...

Child welfare system findings 'appalling'

Part of the problem is that there is an absence of critical thinking in child welfare, Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children’s Justice, said.

"That's not to say that child welfare is devoid of good thinkers, but it is to say in one breath that we really need the social work side to keep families together and be supportive, but at the same time that can unintentionally put blinders (on the caseworker) that doesn't allow them to see that a situation isn't safe or isn't consistent with the proper development of children," Palm said.

Palm feels that situations where a caseworker should be raising red flags are being ignored because caseworkers tend to focus more social work and support to keep the families together.

"There are many times where something happens to a child and you go, 'But there was a red flag here, and a red flag there,'" she said. "Are we critically thinking enough to recognize the red flag, (and where you have multiple flags) you should really be paying attention and saying, 'Should we be doing something different in this case?'"

Merriell Moyer | Oct. 18, 2017 | Lebanon Daily News |  Read More...

Kids become collateral damage in drug crisis

The death toll in the ongoing drug crisis has been so staggering - there were 4,642 drug fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2016 - that Cathleen Palm, a longtime, Berks-based advocate for children, believes the day-in, day-out toll on children has become lost.

"We are really struggling to get recognition of how big this ripple effect is," she said. "We haven't had the spotlight or energy or resources to say, 'What does that mean in terms of young kids?' "

Likely answers, Palm said, are increased risk of child abuse that includes sexual abuse, increased truancy, exposure to harmful situations and - for the very young - inhibited development.

"Zero to three is a critical stage of early brain development," said Palm, who runs The Center for Children's Justice, a nonprofit near Bernville.

With a parent abusing drugs, Palm said, "There is going to be a lot to undo once they get into that pre-K program."

Ford Turner | October 1, 2017 | Reading Eagle |  Read More...

In drug crisis, reports of kids in unsafe homes surge across Pennsylvania

But child welfare budget documents filed recently by individual counties paint a similar picture.

Cathy Palm, founder of the Berks-based nonprofit The Center for Children's Justice, shared segments of those documents her organization reviewed.

"Heroin use is at epidemic levels in our county," the Lancaster County document said. "We are experiencing people using heroin are putting their children at significant risk. Typically when they are using they pass out or even overdose and leave their children unsupervised."

The Schuylkill County document said, "The county is still seeing a tremendous increase in the number of serious drug cases, with several children entering placement due to fatal drug overdoses."

State Rep. Katharine Watson, a Bucks County Republican, introduced a bill two months ago that she said would close a loophole in the reporting to authorities of babies born with dependence to drugs.

Ford Turner | October 1, 2017 | Reading Eagle |  Read More...

Mother finds help, hope in Gaudenzia's
women-only treatment center

Cathleen Palm founded The Center for Children's Justice, a Berks County advocacy group. Residential programs that allow parents to live with their children are hard to come by in Pennsylvania, she said.

Stable housing can give a parent the time it takes to begin recovery without losing custody. Wraparound services are crucial, Palm said, such as childcare, budgeting, employment services.

"Recovery is hard. Parenting is hard. Parenting, particularly a newborn, while you're trying to stay in recovery? Let's just say a lot of cards in the deck are stacked against you," Palm said.

Eric Scicchitano | September 29, 2017 | The Daily Item |  Read More...

We need to better serve abused
and neglected children in Pennsylvania

The "State of the Child" report also suggests that human services officials reduce paperwork requirements, especially for General Protective Services cases (cases in which a child is getting insufficient care or faces potential harm), which differ from Child Protective Services cases (suspected child abuse cases).

This worries Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "So often when a child dies or nearly dies, that same child lived in a family where there had been multiple GPS reports before that lethal event," she said. "The GPS cases are so often providing red flags that, if ignored or misread, can further compromise a child's safety."

In her view, and it seems to be a reasonable one, there needs to be serious consideration about exactly what GPS cases are, and what the risks of reducing the paperwork and data collection on them might be.

The LNP Editorial Board | September 21, 2017 | Lancaster Online | Read More...

Chronicle: In Harm's Way is a critical investigation
into Pennsylvania's struggling child welfare system.

DePasquale and Cathleen Palm still want the oversight of an independent ombudsman free from legislative or gubernatorial control.

"Children's lives are in jeopardy, their custody, their safety, their wellbeing. To us it is a no-brainer we should be putting something in place that is an independent overseer of a system as consequential as the child welfare system.

September 20, 2017 | WTAE |  Read More...

Pa. child welfare system is broken;
caseworkers overwhelmed, underpaid: report

Children's advocates applauded DePasquale's recommendation to appoint an ombudsman to oversee the child-welfare system.

"While federal and state laws provide the framework for how child welfare services are to be delivered, by and large, critical decisions affecting a child's safety and connection to a stable family can be quite random varying dramatically from caseworker to caseworker and county-to county," said Cathleen Palm, Founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "Pennsylvania's child welfare structure too rarely lends itself to transparency or accountability undercutting the identification of systemic issues that impact, not just one child, but also the collective community of children."

Ivey DeJesus | September 14, 2017 | PennLive |  Read More...

Lawmaker wants better response to drug-exposed babies

Watson "is doing a great service" in pushing the legislation to get the state to confront the issue, said Cathleen Palm, director of the Center for Children's Justice.

Palm said data included in state child death reports raise serious red flags about the dangers of not providing adequate support to parents who are dealing with substance abuse while also trying to raise young children.

Those reports include the shocking death of 5-month-old Summer Chambers, who starved to death in Johnstown last December after her parents both overdosed and died, leaving no one to feed the baby.

John Finnerty | Aug 20, 2017 | CNHI News Service |  Read More...

Grace Packer's death shows why PA
needs child protection ombudsman

The Morning Call's reporting on the consequential decisions made by child welfare agencies on behalf of Grace Packer, who was exposed to sexual violence multiple times in her short life, is a powerful reminder that Pennsylvania has waited too long to create an independent child protection ombudsman.

Positive outcomes occur for many children receiving child welfare services. Still, not all outcomes are positive, and consistently the voices of abused children can be disregarded or silenced.

Pennsylvania has no neutral party empowered to review or rework decisions affecting a child's safety or placement in foster care or residential placement. Unheeded warnings or systematic shortcomings affect not just the individual child but also the collective community of children.

State policymakers have long been urged to create an independent ombudsman. This advocacy preceded and followed grievous acts of violence or injustices committed against children — events that placed Pennsylvania in the national spotlight.

Still, momentum has never been on the side of abused children like Grace. Pennsylvania policymakers are considering how to reimagine the delivery of critical health and human services. Creating a child protection ombudsman is one promising and needed solution.

Cathleen Palm
Jefferson Township, Berks County
The writer is the founder of The Center for Children's Justice.

Cathleen Palm | August 6, 2017 | Morning Call |  Read More...

New bill to allow anyone to free kids left alone in cars

"If someone wants to intervene, how do we make sure that we don't leave someone fearful of helping the child?" said Cathleen Palm, the founder of the Center for Children's Justice in Pennsylvania. "One of the ways you protect kids and bring public awareness and education on protecting kids is legislation like this."

Palm said her group began working on the bill when it partnered with the Humane Society to advocate for the protection of both kids and animals from neglect and to raise awareness about the dangers of leaving them in cars.

Kaitlin Washburn | August 1, 2017 | The Morning Call |  Read More...

Frazzled child welfare workers struggle as abuse reports soar

More caseworkers are needed, but just as important, she said, is an analysis of the flood of referrals now coming in — a gush she says the task force did not anticipate.

Palm proposes the state pay for a study of all the calls to Childline. She believes it might reveal thousands of calls that could, and probably should, be diverted from county children and youth workers and toward other state departments, such as housing, public welfare or drug and alcohol.

Some of the reports to Childline are about families dealing with things such as eviction, drug abuse, unemployment and poverty. All of those affect the children in those families, but aren't necessarily problems a caseworker should deal with.

"We're putting way too much on our children and youth system," she said. "In many ways we've set it up to fail."

Matt Assad | July 29, 2017 | The Morning Call |  Read More...

Tennessee: Making newborn drug exposure a legally reportable condition put problem in focus

"Right now, the data we get, there is a huge lag in time," Palm said. "It's going to be a very different response if we realize in real time that babies are being born dependent to drugs. That invites a different strategy."

Jo Ciavaglia | July 26, 2017 | The Intelligencer |  Read More...

Pennsylvania law keeps some drug-exposed infants off child welfare radar, advocates say

The prescribed-narcotics exception in Pennsylvania law was intended to reduce the social stigma surrounding parental substance abuse, which discourages pregnant women from entering drug treatment, said Cathleen Palm, founder and executive director of the Center for Children's Justice in Berks County. But the exception created unanticipated consequences, she added.

"It takes the eyes off the baby because you don't want to punish the mom. But you need to focus on mom and baby. Sometimes parents with a drug history don't need child welfare in their lives, but if you don't check, you don't know," Palm said. "You've really diminished the commitment to the baby in an attempt, rightfully, to not judge the actions of the mom."

Jo Ciavaglia and Marion Callahan | July 26, 2017 | The Intelligencer |  Read More...

Child advocates dismayed by proposal to raise cost of background checks

"It is hard to understand the justification for asking the low-wage worker providing child care or caseworkers investigating child abuse to pay more in fees to get or keep jobs so few would ever consider doing, yet we all know matter to child safety," Palm said. The background "checks were seen as a key tool to protecting children so it seems important to avoid imposing any hurdles to obtaining them."

She also would like to be certain any new language put into statute doesn't undo the existing fee waiver for all volunteers caring for children not just those who give their time freely to Big Brothers/Sisters, domestic violence and rape crisis programs. She called this broader fee waiver a "bipartisan promise" made by the governor and lawmakers in 2015 that doesn't exist in law.

Jan Murphy | July 21, 2017 | Penn Live |  Read More...

Infant's death leads to new Pa. law strengthening penalties on those who endanger children

Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice, said the legislation is important because while several criminal charges can be filed against a perpetrator who abused a child, many of them are often dismissed or negotiated through a plea agreement.

"That can mean that the only remaining charge or the guilty plea is linked to endangering the welfare of children," Palm said. Right now, the offense of endangering the welfare of a child "doesn't really weigh the range or type of injuries the child experiences or the age of the child meaning there can be a huge disconnect between the severity of the abuse the child endured versus the justice dispensed for such abuse."

Jan Murphy | June 29, 2017 | Penn Live |  Read More...

State report issued on child welfare agency in Grace Packer case

She also said the Packer case is a powerful illustration of why the child welfare system needs third-party oversight, something Palm has advocated for years.

"Children and youth in our child welfare system experience abuse, removal from home, court-ordered services, often with their voices so diminished and, even if they can speak up, the concerns get voiced, not to an independent child protection ombudsman, but instead to the very system that controls the fate and future of the child," she said.

Jo Ciavaglia | June 7, 2017 | WERE |  Read More...

Proactive child abuse prevention gets increased attention as fatality rate rises in PA

"Our funding is and always has been so lopsided towards being reactive," said Cathy Palm, founder of Center for Children's Justice. "At some point, we have to shift the paradigm from thinking we'll just intervene when something has already happened to a child to thinking, we know what stressors can cause something like this to happen. How can we prevent that from happening?"

Eleanor Klibanoff | June 6, 2017 | WPSU |  Read More...

Berks girl's overdose death offers stark, painful warning

"There just is no leadership to say, 'Kids are dying,' " Palm said. "The reports that are produced are stuck in a drawer somewhere." Palm said the powerful message of the tragedy was buried by government bureaucracies that failed to follow the requirements of state law that supports publicizing details of child fatalities and near-fatalities.

Ford Turner | June 2, 2017 | Reading Eagle |  Read More...

Prosecutors call for bump in funding for parenting help

Palm said the key to making sure these programs are successful is giving parents access to help when it is optional and before the family situation deteriorates to the point that it's in crisis.

The Nurse Family Partnership works well because the help comes from a non-threatening source.

"It's a lot more effective than having someone knock on the door and say, 'I'm from the government, I'm here to help,'" she said.

She said that a mom recovering from drug addiction is a good example of a situation where the in-home visits can provide guidance.

"Raising a child is intimidating and overwhelming for all of us," Palm said. "If you are a woman in recovery, bringing a newborn home just adds to the challenge."

With the state grappling with a drug crisis, along with a child abuse crisis, the need is greater than ever for the type of assistance the home-visiting programs provide, she said.

John Finnerty | May 31, 2017 | CNHI Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

Child abuse reports continue to surge in Allegheny County

"Do we have a lot of reports that potentially are not the reports the child welfare agency are equipped to deal with? Or do we have reports that really do meet the threshold, but county agencies don't have the resources and wherewithal to keep up with the reports?" Ms. Palm asked. "We don't know the answer to that."

Julian Routh | May 22, 2017 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |  Read More...

2016 child abuse report not accurate representation, child advocates say

Without timely data, child welfare advocates and officials might fail to recognize trends that could trigger faster efforts at raising red flags and initiating calls for policy changes, said Cathleen Palm, executive director and founder of the Center for Children's Justice, a Berks County child advocacy group.

Reporting delays also put the lives of other children at risk, Palm added. If a Bucks County infant died of an unsafe sleeping situation and — months later — two children in Cambria County died from the same situation, recognizing those deaths or near-deaths could spur the state to remind other county child welfare agencies to make sure caseworkers review proper sleeping conditions with parents of young children, Palm said.

Jo Ciavaglia | May 13, 2017 | Bucks County Courier Times |  Read More...

Former state trooper convicted of sex crimes not on Megan’s Law list, case now under internal inquiry

HARRISBURG — A former state trooper who was convicted of sex crimes against teens and described as a "predator" was not listed on Pennsylvania's sex offender registry, an investigation by The Caucus found.

The revelation has prompted an internal inquiry by the state Board of Probation and Parole and calls from child justice advocates for an independent investigation.

"The best thing to do is have an independent review," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "You would want to make sure whatever hiccup, kink or error did not carry over to any other kids or offenders."

Brad Bumsted | May 8, 2017 | Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

Former state trooper convicted of sex crimes not on Megan’s Law list, case now under internal inquiry

HARRISBURG — A former state trooper who was convicted of sex crimes against teens and described as a “predator” was not listed on Pennsylvania’s sex offender registry, an investigation by The Caucus found.

The revelation has prompted an internal inquiry by the state Board of Probation and Parole and calls from child justice advocates for an independent investigation.

"The best thing to do is have an independent review," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "You would want to make sure whatever hiccup, kink or error did not carry over to any other kids or offenders."

Brad Bumsted | May 8, 2017 | Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

2016 child abuse report not accurate representation, child advocates say

Without timely data, child welfare advocates and officials might fail to recognize trends that could trigger faster efforts at raising red flags and initiating calls for policy changes, said Cathleen Palm, executive director and founder of the Center for Children's Justice, a Berks County child advocacy group.

Reporting delays also put the lives of other children at risk, Palm added. If a Bucks County infant died of an unsafe sleeping situation and — months later — two children in Cambria County died from the same situation, recognizing those deaths or near-deaths could spur the state to remind other county child welfare agencies to make sure caseworkers review proper sleeping conditions with parents of young children, Palm said.

Jo Ciavaglia | May 13, 2017 | Bucks County Courier Times |  Read More...

Child abuse reports continue to surge in Allegheny County

"Do we have a lot of reports that potentially are not the reports the child welfare agency are equipped to deal with? Or do we have reports that really do meet the threshold, but county agencies don't have the resources and wherewithal to keep up with the reports?" Ms. Palm asked. "We don't know the answer to that."

Julian Routh | May 22, 2017 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |  Read More...

Prosecutors call for bump in funding for parenting help

Palm said the key to making sure these programs are successful is giving parents access to help when it is optional and before the family situation deteriorates to the point that it's in crisis.

The Nurse Family Partnership works well because the help comes from a non-threatening source.

"It's a lot more effective than having someone knock on the door and say, 'I'm from the government, I'm here to help,'" she said.

She said that a mom recovering from drug addiction is a good example of a situation where the in-home visits can provide guidance.

"Raising a child is intimidating and overwhelming for all of us," Palm said. "If you are a woman in recovery, bringing a newborn home just adds to the challenge."

With the state grappling with a drug crisis, along with a child abuse crisis, the need is greater than ever for the type of assistance the home-visiting programs provide, she said.

John Finnerty | June 29, 2017 | CNHI Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

Berks girl's overdose death offers stark, painful warning

Palm said the powerful message of the tragedy was buried by government bureaucracies that failed to follow the requirements of state law that supports publicizing details of child fatalities and near-fatalities.

"There just is no leadership to say, 'Kids are dying,' " Palm said. "The reports that are produced are stuck in a drawer somewhere."

Ford Turner | June 2, 2017 | WHERE |  Read More...

Proactive child abuse prevention gets increased attention as fatality rate rises in Pa.

"Our funding is and always has been so lopsided towards being reactive," said Cathy Palm, founder of Center for Children's Justice. "At some point, we have to shift the paradigm from thinking we'll just intervene when something has already happened to a child to thinking, we know what stressors can cause something like this to happen. How can we prevent that from happening?"

Eleanor Klibanoff | June 29, 2017 | WPSU |  Read More...

State report issued on child welfare agency in Grace Packer case

She also said the Packer case is a powerful illustration of why the child welfare system needs third-party oversight, something Palm has advocated for years.

"Children and youth in our child welfare system experience abuse, removal from home, court-ordered services, often with their voices so diminished and, even if they can speak up, the concerns get voiced, not to an independent child protection ombudsman, but instead to the very system that controls the fate and future of the child," she said.

Jo Ciavaglia | June 29, 2017 | theintell.com |  Read More...

Infant's death leads to new Pa. law strengthening penalties on those who endanger children

Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice, said the legislation is important because while several criminal charges can be filed against a perpetrator who abused a child, many of them are often dismissed or negotiated through a plea agreement.

"That can mean that the only remaining charge or the guilty plea is linked to endangering the welfare of children," Palm said. Right now, the offense of endangering the welfare of a child "doesn't really weigh the range or type of injuries the child experiences or the age of the child meaning there can be a huge disconnect between the severity of the abuse the child endured versus the justice dispensed for such abuse."

Jan Murphy | Updated on June 29, 2017 | pennlive.com |  Read More...

Allegheny County DHS using algorithm
to assist in child welfare screening

Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, based in Berks County, said if the tool is leading to better safety outcomes for children in Allegheny County, it would be good to find a way to apply it elsewhere in Pennsylvania, though Ms. Palm said realistically, most other counties do not have the same level of integrated data as Allegheny County does. "You would be hard-pressed to find this in other communities, particularly on this scale," she said.

Kate Giammarise | April 9, 2017 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette |  Read More...

Protecting our children:
Sandusky case changed everything

"If the measure is, did we get more reports, that's a success," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "We got a boatload of reports. In other ways, advocates and those close to the system say, they may be swamping caseworkers so it's harder to focus on cases of actual abuse in the midst of the avalanche of allegations. "We have to stop deluding ourselves that the hard work is making the report" of suspected abuse, Palm said. "The system is overwhelmed."

John Finnerty, CNHI State Reporter | April 9, 2017 | Johnstown Tribune Democrat |  Read More...

Note to Penn State trustee Albert Lord: Money doesn't
erase the pain suffered by Jerry Sandusky's victims

Victims can go on to lead wonderful lives, Palm said, but it's as if the abuse they suffered gets hardwired into their DNA — "it doesn't ever really leave you."

Editorial | April 4, 2017 | Lancaster Intelligencer Journal |  Read More...

State must prevent addiction's toll on its youngest

The bill's goals are important, as Center for Children's Justice founder Cathleen Palm of Jefferson Township noted last year: "A baby, a young child's brain is 80 percent developed by the time they are 3."

Editorial | April 3, 2017 | Reading Eagle |  Read More...

Smallest Victims - Narcotic-dependent newborns
growing along with drug epidemic

Marion Callahan and Jo Ciavaglia staff writers | Mar 31, 2017 | theIntell.com |  Read More...

Former Penn State President Found Guilty in Sandusky Abuse Case

Children's advocates called the administrators' convictions a victory for accountability. "We can no longer put institutional loyalty above protecting kids," said Cathleen Palm, the founder of the Center for Children's Justice, a nonprofit that pushed for changes to Pennsylvania's child abuse policies in the wake of the scandal.

By Jess Bidgood And Richard Pérez - Peña | March 24, 2017 | NY Times |  Read More...

Victim advocates warn against 'walking away'
from lessons of Sandusky and Spanier

Cathleen Palm, founder of the state's Center for Children's Justice, said it's likely that the Sandusky abuse would have been reported sooner if it happened today. In the past, she said, someone like Joe Paterno was only required to tell his supervisor. Now, he would be required to call Childline, the tipline to report abuse, or law enforcement.

The verdict against Spanier is a case study in the failures of the old system, Palm said, although the new system has its own flaws. The flurry of legislation that came after Sandusky led to a lot more child abuse reporting because people are worried about running afoul of the law for not reporting. Funding hasn't kept pace and neither has training.

"So many reports are coming in the front door," she said, "there's not enough resources or people to sort through and figure it out."

Wallace McKelvey | March 24, 2017 | PennLive |  Read More...

Were foster child's claims about Packers taken seriously?

It's for exactly that reason, Palm said, that the state rather than the counties investigates abuse allegations against people in the child-care system. It reduces the possibility of conflicts between foster parents and county caseworkers and employees of private agencies under contract with those counties.

"You can see how it might be possible — even unintentionally — for those who might be familiar with another to give them more of a pass," she said.

Palm believes another layer of protection for children is needed to ensure checks and balances, namely, an independent ombudsman who would provide additional oversight of the child welfare system.

Peter Hall, Michelle Merlin and Nicole Radzievich | March 19, 2017 | The Allentown Morning Call |  Read More...

Spanier trial could shed light on Penn State's culpability

"This is one of those situations that will potentially prove precedent-setting," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice in Berks County, who also noted the many improvements lawmakers have already made to Pennsylvania's child-abuse reporting laws in the wake of the Sandusky scandal. "So in some ways the lessons to be learned have already been learned and are in place, hopefully protecting kids better than five years ago, a decade ago, two decades ago."

Susan Snyder & Jeremy Roebuck - Staff Writers | March 19, 2017 | www.philly.com |  Read More...

Pennsylvania focuses on helping opioid-addicted parents kick habit, keep their children

While it's difficult to get specific data from county bureaus, Pennsylvania children have been neglected or even died after a parent or caretaker died of an overdose or fell unconscious, said Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice. Palm is concerned that there is no "systematic statewide review" of such incidents.

For a system already swamped with the expanded mandated abuse reporting law, the opiate epidemic "couldn't be happening at a worse time," Palm said. With no easy fix to protect at-risk children, the center has called for a state task force to examine the problem.

Renatta Signorini | March 18, 2017 | Pittsburgh Tribune Review |  Read More...

In sect that shuns medicine, case against pastor is novel

Cathleen Palm, of the Pennsylvania-based Center for Children's Justice, said she hopes the prosecution, at a minimum, will spur action in the Legislature to protect children whose parents don't seek necessary medical care based on religion.

"What the district attorney has done is clearly pivotal," she said.

Michael Rubinkam | March 16, 2017 | Associated Press |  Read More...

Kids affected by opioid crisis need protection, say state officials

"From what we know about early brain development," Palm said, "we want to have someone watching out for these kids, who are victims of the opioid crisis, and make sure their experiences are those of nurture and protection, not of trauma, abuse, anxiety or uncertainty."

Both Watson and Palm envision a task force made up of nongovernmental stakeholders and experts in the field, including behavioral health treatment providers, obstetric and pediatric physicians, early intervention providers and providers of home-visiting programs.

Susan Baldrige, Staff Writer | March 15, 2017 | www.PennLive.com |  Read More...

Editorial: Systemic troubles now in focus

Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Center for Children's Justice, said agencies across the state, regardless of location, population, demographics and workforce all attempt to overcome the same challenges. "This is systemic," she said.

March 5, 2017 | Sunbury Daily Item |  Read More...

Auditor general launching review of child protection statewide

Palm echoed DePasquale's observation that the challenges facing child protection caseworkers have come in waves as the state changed the law, creating a crush of new reports of suspected child abuse at a time when many long-time caseworkers left the field.

"It's critical that we take another look to see, did we fix it or did we exacerbate" the problems, Palm said.

John Finnerty | Mar 2, 2017 | CNHI Harrisburg Bureau |  Read More...

Too often, abused children remain voiceless and forgotten

The brutal rape, murder and dismemberment of Grace Packer provides a potent illustration that too often the abused child in our commonwealth is voiceless and forgotten. Grace's life and death also provide a reminder that important decisions about child safety, well-being and permanency are made by systems operating with little transparency or accountability. In the spring of 2011, well before Pennsylvanians were shocked by the serial child sexual abuse perpetrated by former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, dozens of organizations called on Pennsylvania's governor and General Assembly to create a Task Force on Child Protection and Accountability.

Cathleen Palm | March 5, 2017 | The Intelligencer |  Read More...

'You can tell they're in pain:'
Hospitals see more infant victims of opioid crisis

There's a bill to create a task force to focus on the impact of the opioid crisis on pregnant woman and babies. It's a large effort by the Center for Children's Justice.

Samantha Galvez | Feb. 9, 2017 | ABC 27 News |  Read More...

Tiniest victims

Cathleen Palm, founder of the Pennsylvania-based Center for Children's Justice, said much more needs to done to provide help for mothers of NAS babies, and to monitor and protect the babies. "We have really been trying to get policy makers to understand the nuances," she says.

Born addicts, opioid babies suffer withdrawal from first breath

David Wenner | Feb. 9, 2017 | www.PennLive.com |  Read More...

Child advocacy group calls for changes to abuse laws in PA

"I think we all want parents to be able to parent their children. We want people to be able to subscribe to their religious beliefs," Palm told 69 News, "but we also have to ask ourselves, have we reached a point that it's unreasonable for a child to die of something as preventable and as treatable as pneumonia?"

Palm said drawing the line between religion and parenting is difficult.

María Salazar | Feb. 3, 2017 | WFMZ |  Read More...

Child welfare investigation findings into Grace
Packer's death might not be public for months

"Clearly Grace Packer is a case that has, at the core, left people pretty uncertain about whether the state is competent in protecting kids in our foster care and adoption system," Palm added. "While a review is done on Grace's behalf, it's bigger than Grace."

Jo Ciavaglia staff writer | January 24, 2017 | BucksCountyCourierTimes |  Read More...

Could red flags have saved Grace Packer?

Perpetrators of child abuse deemed "founded" are barred from working or volunteering with minors. But entering the child abuse database on an "indicated" report, as Packer did, holds no legal significance, and does not start an investigation into a person's parental rights. Such registrants are not forbidden from working with children, according to the state Department of Human Services.

Nonetheless, most organizations still do not hire them, said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, based in Bernville, Berks County.

Packer's entry into the registry "doesn't mean — and the law doesn't require it to mean — that [county child welfare agencies] have to go before the court and say: 'Should we reassess? ... Should there be any change in her ability to parent kids in her home?' " Palm said.

Justine McDaniel • STAFF WRITER | January 20, 2017 | www.philly.com |  Read More...

Bucks County lawmaker wants legislative
investigation of Grace Packer murder

A "foundational question" in this case is whether Sara Packer was identified as a child abuser before or after 2010, according to Cathleen Palm. She's the founder and executive director of the Center for Children's Justice in Berks County, the county that oversaw Grace Packer's adoption.

"There will likely be many more questions if (Sara Packer) was named as a perpetrator and the living status of the children was unchanged," she added.

Plus, Palm added, as a child welfare worker, Packer was mandated by state law to report even a suspected case of child abuse, Palm said.

Jo Ciavaglia, staff writer | Jan 13, 2017 | www.BucksCountyCourierTimes.com | Read More...

Advocate: Grace Packer tragedy should spur system review

The repeated abuse against Grace has many questioning the integrity of the child welfare system. "Whether it's Grace or other children, I think we are starting to realize, what many of us in the system already know, we are not a child-centered system," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice.

Jamie Stover | Jan 13, 2017 | WFMZ | Read More...

State opens probe into Grace Packer's rape and murder

"This case really dictates something different than an Act 33 review," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Berks County nonprofit Center for Children's Justice which pushed for passage of Act 33.
"We believe in these reviews. Grace's life so warrants ... an independent review."

Steve Esack • Contact Reporter | January 12, 2017 | The Morning Call | Read More...

Op-Ed: Child abuse tragedies
demand some collective soul-searching

Dauphin County Judge John Cherry recently sentenced a mother to state prison for the starvation death of her 5-month-old daughter. He questioned whether, as a society we have become 'anesthetized' to such horror. Some soul searching is clearly justified.

Cathleen Palm | January 11, 2017 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Murder suspect Sara Packer's employment
as child welfare worker terminated over 'misconduct'

Pennsylvania employers and organizations are barred from hiring individuals or using volunteers for positions that involve direct unsupervised contact with children if the person was named as a perpetrator in a proven child abuse report within the previous five years. The same prohibition would apply to applicants for foster or adoptive parents, according to Cathleen Palm, founder and executive director of the Center for Children's Justice, a Berks County child advocacy center.

Jo Ciavaglia, staff writer | Jan 10, 2017 | www.BucksCountyCourierTimes.com | Read More...

Abington mom accused of daughter's murder
was once a child welfare worker

Jo Ciavaglia, staff writer | Jan 9, 2017 | www.TheIntell.com | Read More...

Affordable Care Act, and How the Opioid Crisis Affects Children

This week's Pennsylvania Newsmakers features an interview with Ted Dallas, Secretary of Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services, who provides an update on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion. Then, joining host Terry Madonna is Cathleen Palm, Founder of the Center for Children's Justice, for a discussion of children and the opioid crisis.

First Aired January 1, 2017 | NewsMakersTV.com | Read More...

Abused, neglected children often lack safety net
of mandatory reporters

Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice, points out that in spite of the systems in place, there is an added level of vulnerability that comes with very young children. Mandated reporters - professionals such as teachers and doctors who work with children - are by law required to report suspected abuse, but very young children may not have that connection.

Ivey DeJesus, December 28, 2016 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Bill to aid child sex abuse victims stalls in Legislature

Cathleen Palm, a Jefferson Township resident and founder of the Center for Children's Justice, agreed with Scarnati in that respect. She said that House leaders should have accepted the Senate version and continued to advocate for the retroactive component in the future.

The Senate version would eliminate the statute of limitations for criminal charges going forward and give future victims until age 50 to file lawsuits. Now, victims have until age 30 for lawsuits and age 50 to press criminal charges.

"Because the retroactive piece has become so divisive ... we saw an evaporation of other really important steps forward that there was overwhelming support for," she said. "We understand it's a political calculation, but from our perspective we're struggling with cases where the statute of limitations is taking hold right now."

Karen Shuey - October 26, 2016 | Reading Eagle | Read More...

PA legislators abandon bill
to extend rights of child sex-abuse victims

"All of us want to get the retroactivity piece back and are so infuriated by the absence of justice for victims," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice. "But continuing to delay important reforms is denying justice for a whole new class of victims."

Victims' advocates lamented the bill changes and lawmakers' inability to resolve their differences before the legislature's last voting day for the year.

Maria Panaritis and Karen Langley - October 25, 2016
HARRISBURG BUREAU - Philadelphia Inquirer | Read More...

ChildLine audit finds major delays in answering calls,
submitting investigation outcomes

The auditor general's call for the immediate creation of an independent child protection ombudsman to review complaints and recommend system improvements is long overdue, Palm said.

The recommendation has been around since 2002, when an advisory committee suggested it. "Today's audit release was powerful in some ways less about its findings, than the fact that the auditor general keeps using his office and audits to underscore that protecting children can't be a once-in-a-decade exercise," Palm added. "Pennsylvania has passed 20-plus child protection laws in the last few years, but such laws will prove less effective without continuous and independent checks and balances."

Jo Ciavaglia, staff writer, October 13, 2016 | The Intelligencer | Read More...

28 people received clearance to work with kids
despite child abuse, neglect backgrounds

"Let's not delude ourselves that a background check is going to tell us enough about what we need to know about the people taking care of our kids," she said. "There is no substitute for doing a much more thorough screening and knowing the person you might hire."

Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice, said while it is reported to be only a small number of erroneous reports and the 28 individuals' histories didn't bar them from working with children, it does serve as a reminder that the state-mandated background checks are only one piece of information that should be considered in who employers and volunteer organizations allow to be around children.

Jan Murphy, October 5, 2016 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Advocacy group urges action on child sex abuse bill

Anyway, the advocacy group The Center for Children's Justice emailed me a copy of a letter it sent this week to Gov. Tom Wolf and members of the Senate and House. I thought it was worth sharing with everyone else. Here it is:

Today, all across this Commonwealth, children are being sexually assaulted. Each of these children are courageously struggling to survive the assault against their body and spirit. More than likely, each of these children remain oblivious to the political debates unfolding about whether and how to reform the statute of limitations (SOLs) for childhood sexual abuse. Still every sexually abused child will be directly impacted by the decisions made before the 2015-2016 legislative session ends on November 30th.

Bill White, September 29, 2016 | Bill White Blog | Read More...

Family First Needed to Stop Child Deaths

"1 month, 12 days died suddenly."

The obituary of Brayden Cummings provided a wake-up call about the most vulnerable and forgotten victims of the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic.

Brayden was born physically dependent on opioids. He suffered through weeks of withdrawal in a Pennsylvania hospital. Upon discharge he was prescribed opioids to treat his Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

James Greenwood and Cathleen Palm, September 28, 2016 | chronicleofsocialchange.org | Read More...

Rozzi still pushing for overhaul of child sex abuse law

"At a minimum, doing something has got to take priority this fall," Palm said.

But she said if senators can't "muster the political courage" to approve that measure, advocates should push to get the other protections adopted this year and continue to advocate for the retroactive component.

Liam Migdail-Smith, September 28, 2016 | Reading Eagle | Read More...

Child abuse calls get answered, but questions persist

The stories behind those numbers are still unknown, said Cathleen Palm, director of the Center for Children's Justice. How many of those 9 in 10 calls led to intervention by social workers to help families, even if abuse wasn't documented?

How many involved cases where people reported things that were not abuse? How many times was abuse not documented because overworked investigators haven't been able to keep up with a flood of calls? People are now getting to the hotline operator. "That, on the surface, is a good thing," Palm said.

John Finnerty, Updated: September 18, 2016 | Johnstown Tribune Democrat | Read More...

Back to school brings child abuse reports;
PA says it's better able to react

Pa. human services secretary: state making progress on child abuse 'crisis'

founder of the Center for Children's Justice, said the improvements to the abuse reporting and background check processes are "good news." But she says a big part of the job remains — to evaluate the actual outcomes after the state reports cases to the appropriate local authorities. As it stands, there's no assurance each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties is appropriately handling cases referred by the state and has the resources to do so. "That's the real story ... I think that's the next conversation Pennsylvania needs to have," she said.

David Wenner, Updated: September 15, 2016 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Multiple warnings precede a child's death by abuse

Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, questioned
why the state hadn't launched a more comprehensive review sooner.

"We've essentially lost eight years," she said. "You asked a lot of people to jump through hoops, get in a room, make these recommendations, to what end? If all that happens is we dump them on a website then nothing changes."

Julia Terruso, Updated: August 22, 2016 | Philadelphia Inquirer | Read More...

The Philly delegates won’t see: 'People want jobs
... what’s a president going to do about that?'

"If you're a mom and you've gotten a notice that you’re going to lose your apartment," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children’s Justice, "you’re not tuned in to what either political party is saying."Programs that serve needy women and children are struggling. Each year more than 500 infants enter emergency shelters in Philadelphia, she said, a crisis fueled by poverty, drugs and desperation. "There’s so much work to be done, there’s not a lot of time to have a party," Palm said.

Laura McCrystal and Jeff Gammage, July 27, 2016 | Philadelphia Inquirer | Read More...

Organization asks lawmakers
to look into effect of heroin on babies

News 8's Beccah Hendrickson looks into how babies are affected
when they are born to mothers addicted to heroin.

We cannot look at this from a punitive or criminal justice perspective. We have to look at this from a public health perspective. The Center for Children’s Justice wants NAS to be a reportable health condition to better track the epidemic.

Beccah Hendrickson, July 25, 2016 | WGAL | Read More...

Special session called to find solutions to
PA’s opioid epidemic: 'This is about saving lives'

The Center for Children's Justice, hopes to have a seat at that table to renew children advocates' call for forming a task force focused on the impact of this epidemic on children. Specifically, the advocates want to see more efforts made to prevent substance-exposed infants, improve outcomes for pregnant women and mothers struggling with addiction recovery; and improve the welfare of substance-exposed infants and young children at risk of abuse and neglect due to drug-using parents.

Jan Murphy, June 23, 2016 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Advocates say PA's child abuse hotline has had major problems
since 2010, so why did the state wait so long to investigate?

C4CJ and Palm continue to push for independent oversight and transparency in child protective services. "We have confidence that, going forward, protecting children remains a priority," Palm said. "But we also can't afford to overlook how for so long there was scarce leadership and urgency on behalf of abused children."

Courtney Linder, May 26, 2016 | PublicSource | Read More...

Pennsylvania's child abuse hotline
still leaves too many calls unanswered

And then consider this: Advocates have been worried about ChildLine for years (it was they who pushed for an audit). Cathleen Palm of The Center for Children's Justice first wrote a letter of concern to state officials in 2010, after a Gov. Ed Rendell commission reported that calls were being abandoned because of long hold times "due to ChildLine operating at reduced staff levels." That year, 8.82 percent of calls to ChildLine were abandoned or deflected.

The LNP Editorial Board, May 25, 2016 | LancasterOnline.com | Read More...

Thousands of unanswered, undocumented
ChildLine calls show 'a lot more work is needed'
'Disturbing' initial findings led auditor general
to issue ChildLine interim report

But issues involving unanswered calls, long wait times and staffing levels have dated back to former Gov. Ed Rendell's administration, according to the state's Center for Children's Justice, when, in 2010, it was reported that between 9 and 13 percent of calls a month were unanswered. Palm said Monday that there were real concerns with ChildLine and its operations well before the Sandusky case. "We already had so many cracks in the dam and then we had Sandusky and the pressure just got bigger," Palm said. "This is not a short-term fix. This is not a short-term problem. This has been an evolution of a system that is being asked to do way way more than it has the capacity to handle."

Julianne Mattera May 25, 2016 | PennLive.com | Read More...

Audit finds thousands of unanswered calls
to Pa. child-abuse hotline

Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, said she and other advocates asked in 2010 for an audit of ChildLine.

Palm said that protecting children only works if people are confident in the system. "We've got to get to restored confidence in the child welfare system," she said.

Karen Langley, HARRISBURG BUREAU - May 24, 2016 | philly.com | Read More...

Pa. auditor general: 1 in 5 calls
to state child abuse hotline went unanswered

"Today we finally have the independent confirmation that the Commonwealth has for too long neglected the very front end of how we protect children," Palm said in an statement. "It is both telling and quite troubling that as a Commonwealth we have made a massive push for individuals to report suspected child abuse without sufficiently preparing for or being responsive to the crushing demand created on ChildLine." Palm also touched on another issue in the report involving a failure to document or track all calls.

Jo Ciavaglia - May 24, 2016 | buckscountycouriertimes.com | Read More...

Long waits, busy signals await callers to abuse hotline

Palm said the system could benefit by finding a way to quickly redirect callers to 211 information hotlines supported by health and human services agencies. That would keep the child abuse hotline free for those trying to report abuse, she said. It might also cut down on overtime and stress for operators who are being asked to deal with calls that they aren't prepared to handle, she said.

John Finnerty - May 24, 2016 | tribdem.com | Read More...

Audit Reveals ChildLine Understaffed

Child advocates pushed for the audit of ChildLine and hope the results don't deter people from reporting abuse. "We have to keep instilling that confidence. People won't make the call. People won't stand up and speak up for children if they think the system won't respond," said Cathy Palm, child advocate.

Jim Hamill - May 24, 2016 | WNEP.com | Read More...

State lawmakers turn attention to drug epidemic

Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children’s Justice, wants officials to also address a heretofore neglected area: how the epidemic is affecting pregnant women and infants born with withdrawal symptoms. “I do think it (attention) is bipartisan and there is a lot of energy,” she said. “We would like to see the same urgency with a focus on pregnant women and children.” Ms. Palm suggested a starting point could be providing $10 million to support home visits by professionals to those families.

Robert Swift, Harrisburg Bureau Chief - May 23, 2016 | thetimes-tribune.com | Read More...

Senate acts to close loophole that exempted doctors,
clergy from background checks law

"Clearly most professionals and institutions committed to protecting children don't need another law or even a fixed up law to do the right thing," said child advocate Cathleen Palm. This bill "makes it crystal clear that health care providers like physicians and members of the clergy who have direct contact with children must undergo and pass comprehensive criminal and child abuse background checks if they want to work with children."

Jan Murphy - May 10, 2016 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Changes since 1976 Sandusky allegations
'eliminated going up chain of command': child advocate

"We need to look forward," Palm said. "We have to make sure today, tomorrow, we don't live in a world where it's taboo to talk about child sexual abuse and where people feel powerless or unprepared to do anything ... when they think a child is being harmed."

Julianne Mattera - May 6, 2016 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Editorial: State should study effect of drug abuse on babies

The Issue: A Berks nonprofit requests a task force to investigate the opioid crisis' impact on infants.

Our Opinion: We favor any reasonable attempt to contain the scourge's effects.

WHO - April 13, 2016 | Reading Eagle | Read More...

Nonprofit urges state leaders to create task force
for substance-exposed infants

Seeking to bring attention to this topic, the Center for Children’s Justice sent a letter March 30 to Gov. Tom Wolf and six legislative leaders. Ten county coroners, the executive director of CASA Youth Advocates Inc., Office of Victim Advocate, Center for Children’s Justice, the Pennsylvania State Coroners Association and others signed the letter.

Amy Marchiano - April 11, 2016 | Pottsville Republican | Read More...

Pa. seeing more heroin-addicted babies,
abused children of addicted parents

The advocates, organized by The Center for Children's Justice, are asking for a task force "focused on the impact of this epidemic on children in Pennsylvania." It would figure out ways to prevent infants from being exposed to drugs during pregnancy, improve outcomes for pregnant women and parents trying to recover from addiction, and promoting the health and safety of drug-exposed infants and children of addicted parents

David Wenner - April 8, 2016 | PennLive | Read More...

In our words
On justice for child victims, and an important debate

Victims and advocates have been waiting and hoping for progress on statute of limitations reform.

So advancing House Bill 1947 "is big news and promising," Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, said. "Still, why did it take so long?"

LNP Editorial Board - April 7, 2016 | Lancaster Online | Read More...

State bill advances to protect rights of child sexual-abuse victims

"It's not a solution for every victim," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children's Justice, a Pennsylvania-based group. "That said, it is a really positive step forward in the sense we should never be in a position again where horrific acts of abuse against kids are revealed, and we can't press forward in criminal court or civil court because there's this arbitrary statute of limitations."

Karen Langley - April 6, 2016 | Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau | Read More...

Grassroots group seeks change for child welfare system it calls 'tangled and broken'

"Can we keep this family together and still keep this child safe" is the question, Palm said. "There is always a healthy tension between the rights of parents and the safety of a child. That requires really good facts, really well-trained people to sort through," Palm said.

It is critical that those deciding whether to return a child to a family "have enough facts and are they clear enough about what the goal is," she said.

Barbara Miller - April 1, 2016 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Heroin gives birth to new problem

Palm supplied statistics that showed the number of children who suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome when born to Medicaid-covered mothers in Pennsylvania increased from 1,080 in 2010 to 1,970 in 2014. The infants were exposed to opiate or narcotic drugs during the mother's pregnancy and at least some experienced withdrawal symptoms after birth.

Ford Turner - April 1, 2016 | Reading Eagle | Read More...

U.S. senator calls for GAO probe
to protect babies born drug-dependent

"By GAO and Congress saying we want states to tangibly tell us what they are doing, it's going to force them to really look at it," Palm said. "It just feels like we're about to get a whole lot more motivated about these babies and their families."
— Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Center for Children's Justice, a Pennsylvania non-profit advocacy group, supported Casey's action.

Duff Wilson - March 3, 2016 | Reuters, New York | Read More...

Pa.: Increased efforts to track teacher backgrounds

Pennsylvania has several systems in place to check an educator's history

"We could change all the laws, have the strongest, toughest laws, law enforcement on the lookout, schools on the lookout ... ultimately we still have to remember it's about changing the culture," Palm said.

It's important to help kids and adults recognize what's appropriate behavior and what's not, she said, all while not making adults so nervous they are afraid to "genuinely interact" with children.

Palm said the legislature has created some important tools for helping to protect children. But she urges parents not to let their guards down.

Angie Mason - February 14, 2016 | York Daily Record | Read More...

Legislature plans to doctor up state's background checks law

"I do think it's a quick fix and the good news is it's on the Legislature's radar," Palm said. "While it's good to get it clarified, I don't think there's a crisis in protecting kids inside medical practices at this time either."

Jan Murphy - February 5, 2016 | PennLive | Read More...

Background checks under review

But advocates wonder if everyone might want to take a little time to make sure that this correction is the last.

"Pennsylvania needs to take a step back," said Cathleen Palm, executive director of the Center for Children’s Justice.

Sunbury Daily Item - February 6, 2016 | Read More...

Advocates want better monitoring of heroin's child victims

The Center for Children's Justice, in Berks County, is pressing the state Congressional delegation to lobby for better oversight of cases in which newborns are exposed to illegal drugs.

"It's almost like we are losing a generation of children, and no one is talking about it," said Cathleen Palm, the center's founder.

John Finnerty - December 23, 2015 | CNHI State Reporter | Read More...

U.S. lawmakers call for action to protect drug-exposed newborns

The Pennsylvania-based child welfare organization Center for Children's Justice asked for "immediate, not delayed action" in a letter signed by 24 other organizations representing children's advocates, pediatricians, nurses, social workers and churches. The letter was sent earlier this month to Casey and other Pennsylvania lawmakers in Washington.

John Shiffman and Duff Wilson - December 22, 2015 | WASHINGTON | Read More...

Pa. must do more to help infants born addicted

Pa. is still struggling to connect the dots about the scope and effects
of the drug crisis on infants and toddlers.

This month, Reuters in partnership with NBC News released an investigative report, "Helpless and Hooked: the most vulnerable victims of America’s opioid epidemic."

Six-week-old Brayden Cummings died in Carbon County, Pa., and was featured in Reuters' investigation. His mother, who was just 20 years old and well known to many systems (e.g., child welfare, courts, probation, health care, drug treatment), is in prison serving time for causing the 2014 sleep-related death of her only child. Reuters

Cathleen Palm, Guest Writer | December 16, 2015 | York Daily Record | Read More...

More dropped calls at child abuse hotline, as auditor investigates

His will be the first independent analysis to determine how those reforms are working, Palm said. "Now is a good time to do the audit," she said. "We'll find it if we have seen hiccups" in overhauling the hotline.

John Finnerty | December 4, 2015 | CNHI State Reporter | Read More...

Is state's child-abuse reporting system working?
Audit seeks to find out

Child welfare advocates welcome this independent look after hearing assurances from department officials over the years that the system is working and yet they still get reports of dropped calls to the hotline or calls going unanswered and long wait times to speak to a ChildLine employee.

Jan Murphy December 2, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Details emerge about deceased toddler
in Luzerne County Children and Youth case

"There are still pieces of the puzzle that are missing to really understand what happened in this case and how different key parties arrived at very different decisions about this child's death," said Palm, who targets child abuse through the Bernville, PA-based organization.

Jennifer Learn-Andes - October 7th, 2015 | Times Leader | Read More...

Child abuse victims in Pa. once again suffering because of budget

Too many times in the past, Pennsylvania's abused children have suffered in the shadows, overlooked by state government. Wolf and lawmakers must find common ground and choose a productive and child-centered path forward. Together, they should act to immediately restore essential funding so suspected child abuse is properly investigated and every abused child is connected to interventions critical to healing and justice.

Cathleen Palm - Sep 18th, 2015 | Lancaster Online | Read More...

Pa. child welfare system is in state of emergency, advocate says

The "child protection dam broke loose" in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse case, said Cathleen Palm, founder of the state's Center for Children's Justice. The state Legislature passed 23 new bills that became law and aimed to improve child protection in the state. The change resulted in an increase in reports of suspected child abuse.

Megan Trimble - September 17, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Salaries for caseworkers varies widely in midstate

"But we haven't talked as much about what happens once you make a report," she says. "How do you have people who are really well-trained and really can assess safety and can really figure out what's going on in a family not necessarily to remove a child, but to help the family get strengthened so the child can remain safely? We just haven't given that enough attention, and we probably don't value those jobs nearly as much as we should."

Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter - September 2, 2015 | WITF | Read More...

Child fatality, near-fatality reports chief among corrected data in child abuse report

For Cathleen Palm, founder of the state's Center for Children's Justice, the changes were anything but insignificant, especially when it came to the child fatality and near-fatality analysis.

Megan Trimble - August 28, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Children & Youth licensing downgrade should be 'wake-up call,' child advocate says

Citing the county agency's most recent provisional license, Cathleen Palm, founder of the state's Center for Children's Justice, said in a statement that "many of the practices, particularly around child safety cited as the basis for the downgraded license, are likely quite similar to what is happening in child-protection agencies all across this commonwealth."

Julianne Mattera - August 25, 2015 | Harrisburg Patriot News | Read More...

Editorial: Keep background checks for university profs

“Has everyone forgotten what started this conversation?” asks Cathleen Palm, founder of the Center for Children’s Justice.

The LNP Editorial Board - August 24, 2015 | Lancaster Intelligencer Journal | Read More...

State's heavily redacted Tutko child-abuse report
leaves more questions than answers

"These are sentinel events. These kids are dying and they should be moments that stop us to really intentionally learn and work to prevent them," Palm said. "And you need reliable data to be able to do that."

Julianne Mattera - August 6, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Right move to pull flawed state child abuse report,
but accurate data is critical

However, Cathleen Palm, founder of the state's Center for Children's Justice, has said she and other child advocates have "struggled to have any confidence in the fatality data for a while."

Julianne Mattera - July 31, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Months late, state's annual child abuse report
is 'full of flaws,' lawyer says

That clarification on the one chart was "good news" Palm said, but it leaves "open the question as to whether or not the original error filled-table impacted the report overall."

Julianne Mattera - July 31, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Bucks, Montco seeing big uptick
in child abuse reporting

The Center for Children's Justice noted that the 2014 report includes 13 children who died or nearly died in previous years because the abuse investigations were not completed until last year. The report also doesn't include four children in Allegheny County whose deaths were substantiated as child abuse, according to the center.

Jo Ciavaglia - July 31, 2015 | Bucks County Courier Times | Read More...

Child abuse reporting up, but thousands of children
remain at risk in Pennsylvania

"Clearly that's a barometer that children and families remain in a pretty high crisis state," said Cathleen Palm, founder of the Pennsylvania-based Center for Children's Justice. "There's a heck of a lot of vulnerable kids."

Julian Routh - July 29, 2015 | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Read More...

Report: State lags on mandated child abuse reporting

The Center for Children’s Justice’s latest report outlining data involving death and near deaths among Pennsylvania children shows that 163 children died and another 245 nearly died as a result of abuse or neglect over almost five years, between January 2010 and September.

Jo Ciavaglia - July 16, 2015 | Bucks County Courier Times | Read More...

Report: Fatalities and near fatalities from child abuse in Luzerne County 8th highest in state

In releasing the data, the center focused on the need to refine “plans of safe care” required under state laws enacted in 2014 and 2015, designed to assure the safety of children in situations that may not meet the definition of child abuse, but who face greater risks because of parental drug use.

Mark Guydish - July 13, 2015 | Times Leader | Read More...

New bill would modify background checks

"Background checks are not a panacea," said Palm. "We can't see background checks as a substitute to really knowing and monitoring the interaction between adults and our children - and when boundaries seem to be crossed, to speak up early."

Madison Russ - July 1, 2015 | Philadelphia Inquirer | Read More...

After Sandusky, A Debate Over Whether
Sex-Abuse Law Goes Too Far

"We struck a pretty good balance the first round. We didn't clarify things enough. So now we're back trying to clarify it," Palm says. But she warns, "There's a difference between clarifying and walking back protections."

Jeff Brady - June 25, 2015 | NPR | Read More...

House passes revisions to state's background checks law

Founder of the Center for Children's Justice, said it sends a message that Pennsylvania feels some 16- and 17-year-olds don't need as many protections as others. She said exempting children who fall into that age group is troubling and takes two steps backward in legislation that tried to take one step forward

PennLive staff and wire reports - June 17, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Dauphin County Children & Youth grand jury report:
Mistakes left trail of victims

"In Pennsylvania, there's no way for any of us outside of the system to measure the degree to which children are dying or nearly dying from child abuse," said Cathleen Palm, founder of Pennsylvania's Center for Children's Justice. "That's one of the things we should move to fix."

Christine Vendel - June 12, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Commissioners unaware of 'serious problems'
prior to Jarrod Tutko Jr.'s death

"There's both an expectation and opportunity for the county commissioners to have oversight and know and monitor what's going on with regards to how we care for children and families," Palm said.

Julianne Mattera - June 12, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Dauphin County grand jury report on Children & Youth Services:
What really went wrong

"The report, for all its strengths," Palm said, "didn't address some problems that adversely affect children in counties across the state."

Christine Vendel - June 5, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Duggar case illustrates how poorly we treat child victims

Cathleen Palm - June 1, 2015 | Lancaster Intelligencer Journal | Read More...

Lawmaker pushing to waive background check fees for volunteers

That change more so than the others Moul is proposing raises a red flag for Palm. "Just because I lived and worked in Pennsylvania doesn't mean I didn't commit a crime in another state," she said.

Jan Murphy - May 22, 2015 | PennLive | Read More...

Protecting Children and the Elderly

Originally aired on April 19th, 2015 - This week's Pennsylvania Newsmakers features an interview with Katherine C. Pearson, Professor of Law at Penn State's Dickinson Law, who discusses what's being done in the state to combat elder abuse. Then, joining host Terry Madonna is Cathleen Palm, Founder of the Center for Children's Justice, to discuss increasing child protection.

April 19th, 2015 | Read More...

Work being done on child abuse
background checks law to provide clarity

"We had been worried that given all the confusion and anxiety, we felt there was an opportunity to walk it back but it doesn't appear that people are trying to walk it back at all," Palm said.

By Jan Murphy for the Harrisburg Patriot News | April 15, 2015 | Read More...

Child-abuse clearance backlog
posing problem for child care centers

"These are people making decisions about providing people with information that makes the difference between them being gainfully employed or not and between the safety of a child being guarded or not," she said.

By Jan Murphy for the Harrisburg Patriot News | March 17, 2015 | Read More...

Op/Ed: Changes in Pa. abuse laws
bring focus on children

But for too long, our children lived in a state that under-valued child safety, completely misunderstood the lifetime impact associated with childhood trauma and permitted politicians to get elected (and re-elected) without championing child protection. Change has consequences; refusing to change has proven consequential for abused children.

By Cathleen Palm Lebanon Daily News | March 10, 2015 | Read More...

Post-Sandusky child protection laws won’t work, if state child abuse hotline isn’t working well

And this is promising, but the “time to decide more ChildLine staff was needed was not when they’re getting a thousand calls a day,” says Cathleen Palm of The Center for Children’s Justice.

The LNP Editorial Board | February 26, 2015 | Read More...

LTE: PA’s investment in training mandated reporters of child abuse is good news

Mandated reporters (e.g., social workers, child care providers, teachers, Girl Scout volunteers) have a legal duty to report suspected child abuse. These individuals are critical to protecting children, and Pennsylvania recognizes training them is important.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | February 23, 2015 | Read More...

Editorial: Real impact measured by penalties

“Sandusky was the tipping point, but Pennsylvania’s law/practices really left too many children unprotected from serious physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect for years,” Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children’s Justice in Berks County, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Sunbury Daily Item | January 25, 2015 | Read More...

Northampton DA takes second look
at deaths of Lehigh Township couple’s babies

Under the new law, at least, social services must physically check on a child and cannot merely clear the report through a phone call to the doctor, said Cathleen Palm, director of the Berks County-based Center for Children’s Justice.

By Pamela Lehman and Riley Yates Allentown Morning Call | January 25, 2015 | Read More...

Pregnant women rarely face charges for drug use

“ If Mom knows that the minute she goes someplace, someone’s going to say, 'You're a criminal.' 'We're going to put you in jail,' or 'This is child abuse, we're going to take away your baby,' that’s counterintuitive, ” she said.

By Riley Yates Of The Morning Call | January 24, 2015 | Read More...

Want to work with kids in Pennsylvania?
Background checks required

“This impacts thousands and thousands of people,” said Palm, who noted that the state doesn't charge volunteers at rape crisis centers or domestic violence shelters for their background checks.

By JOHN FINNERTY CNHI Harrisburg Correspondent for the Sharon Herald | January 23, 2015 | Read More...

Wolf must follow through to prevent child abuse in Pa.

As Cathleen Palm of the Center for Children’s Justice rightfully says, "Laws are just words on paper. It’s really about the practice, and it’s really about the leadership."

The LNP Editorial Board | December 16, 2014 | Read More...

Pa Newsmakers has Cathleen Palm
on combating child sexual abuse

Read More...

Want to volunteer in a kids' program in Pennsylvania?
Prepare for background checks

"Much of the work to this point has centered on how do we react to child abuse," said Palm, director of The Center for Children's Justice. "This is a nice preventive tool in terms of knowing that an adult shouldn't be working directly with kids."

Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com | Pennlive.com | October 14 2014 | Read More...

Summit head to parents: No injury in 'hazing' incident

"There are so many competing interests at this time ... but schools should always err on the side of turning things over to the authorities and letting them do an investigation and not to taint any further investigation," said Cathleen Palm, president of the Center For Children's Justice.

James Pilcher | jpilcher@enquirer.com | www.cincinnati.com | September 12, 2014 | Read More...

Victims' advocates: Celebrate the Penn State football team, but remember what led to the sanctions

"You understand youthful exuberance," said Cathleen Palm, of the Center for Children's Justice. "But it is challenging because there's not a whole lot of celebration that is warranted in terms of what led to those sanctions... I do think that it goes to show that in some ways, the culture has only changed so much."

Anna Orso | aorso@pennlive.com | PennLive.com | September 9, 2014 | Read More...

Changes could strain child protection system

Palm said she and advocates like her will be vigilant to see whether local caseworkers are overwhelmed – and whether the state's ChildLine hotline can manage any spike in cases.

John Finnerty | CNHI Harrisburg Correspondent | September 6, 2014 | Read More...

Criminal misconduct complaints against teachers in PA growing

Pennsylvania has had the second highest number of teacher sex crimes in the nation this year. That’s according to a nationwide report released last month. Twenty-four cases have been reported so far in 2014. Overall, there have been 450 complaints against teachers since January. In all of 2013, the Pennsylvania Department of Education reported 482 complaints. There have been 416 sex abuse cases nationwide since January, about the same number ordinarily seen in an entire year. Other instances of teacher misconduct have included drunk driving and drug possession. So, are teachers violating their students’ trust more frequently or are the methods for reporting inappropriate relationships between teacher and student different than in the past? It is worth noting that the teachers accused of misconduct make up a small margin of the 150,000 K-12 teachers and administrators working in the state. Kristen Houser, Vice President of Communication for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), Dr. Lou Manza, professor of psychology at Lebanon Valley College and Cathleen Palm of the Center for Children’s Justice will discuss the issue on Thursday’s Smart Talk.

Smart Talk | August 7, 2014 | Read More...

Within bounds of the law and decency, county and state
should share as much as they can on Jarrod Tutko case

As child welfare activist Cathleen Palm noted in these pages earlier this week, "protecting children is a shared community responsibility."

PennLive Editorial Board | August 6, 2014 | Read More...

After Jarrod Tutko's death,
some important questions must be answered ...

... Many times, when case workers are sent to a home to report on one child, they can be blind to what may be occurring throughout the rest of the house.

Cathleen Palm | The Center for Children's Justice | August 4, 2014 Read More...

Child advocates warn against unmonitored homeschooling

Less visibility often hides cases of abuse

“One of the most important ways that cycles of abuse stop, that kids get connected to investigations, is because someone makes a report,” said Cathleen Palm, founder of The Center for Children's Justice in Bernville

Kaitlynn Riely | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | July 27, 2014 Read More...

Stronger laws to be sought
in Mercer County starvation case

“We are far more tolerant than we should be with what we allow to happen to the child before there is a stiff penalty that would send a message to anyone who would think to do this,” Palm said.

By Aaron Aupperlee | July 21, 2014 | Read More...

Safety group: Falling furniture
a common problem with deadly consequences

“The degree to which children die is often not on people’s radars, particularly policymakers,” Palm said. She said they could do more to increase the sense of urgency around preventable child deaths.

By Ben Zigterman / The Times | July 17, 2014 | Read More...

Casey, Toomey introduce bills to aid abused children

By Tracie Mauriello / Post-Gazette Washington Bureau | May 15, 2014 | Read More...

Protecting kids from abuse
Pennsylvania is making progress, though there’s much more to do

By Mary Carrasco / Cathleen Palm | May 14, 2014 | Read More...

Lawmakers Broadening Their Focus
to Fight Against an Array of Sex Crimes

By Jennifer Steinhauer | April 21, 2014 | Read More...

WITF Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Wilson talks with Cathleen Palm of the Center for Children's Justice about legislation that is designed to protect kids from abusers and predators.

Read More...

Bill creating better tools in state's fight
against child sex abuse heads to Corbett

By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com | Read More...

Harm, but no foul at Susquehanna Township High School after sexual assault charges rattle district

By Donald Gilliland | dgilliland@pennlive.com | Read More...

Susquehanna Twp. School District administrator's reported inquiry showed "absence of skill set and sensitivity," child advocate says

By Julianne Mattera | jmattera@pennlive.com | Read More...

Lynn's conviction overturned

Reporter's Roundtable | Read More...

Corbett Inks Post-Sandusky PA Child-Abuse Bills

By The Associated Press | Read More...

Pennsylvania child protection package lauded, but reporting
loopholes exposed by Sandusky scandal still need closure

By Charles Thompson | cthompson@pennlive.com
on December 19, 2013 at 8:00 AM, updated December 20, 2013 at 1:13 AM | Read More...
Download this article in PDF format... ( 1.9MB )

Package of child-protection bills headed to Corbett

Angela Couloumbis, Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
Last updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013, 2:01 AM
Posted: Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 7:58 PM | Read More...

Editorial:
Lessons From the Sandusky Case

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: December 19, 2013 | Read More...

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