Senator Tim Kearney

HARRISBURG, PA – April 10, 2024 – Senator Tim Kearney (D-Delaware) is pleased to announce that Senate Bill 1018 today passed the Senate unanimously.

This legislation marks a significant step forward in providing further protections for child victims and witnesses in Department of Human Services (DHS) administrative hearings when pertaining to child abuse or child sexual abuse and exploitation.

Senator Kearney has been a staunch advocate for child safety since his first year in office. After being moved by a constituent’s story in 2019, he has worked to close gaps in the DHS system and help prevent the re-traumatization of child victims in administrative proceedings.

“This legislation is deeply personal to me,” said Senator Kearney. “No child should ever be subjected to further trauma while seeking justice. Senate Bill 1018 aims to close a critical gap in our system, ensuring that child victims and witnesses are afforded the protections they deserve.”

The bill addresses the lack of statutory safeguards for child witnesses within the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals, where appeals of DHS’s determinations of child abuse are heard. Currently, in criminal and civil court proceedings, child victims and witnesses are provided with essential protections including the ability to testify remotely and the assistance of child advocates who can explain the judicial proceedings and advocate for the child’s needs to the court.

Senate Bill 1018 provides these protections to administrative law hearings within DHS, ensuring consistency and fairness in the treatment of child victims.

Senator Kearney further highlighted the potential dangers of not passing this legislation by referencing his 2019 encounter with a distraught mother. “Her son was forced to testify before a panel of administrative law judges without proper support, leading to further trauma. This should have never happened, and my goal is to ensure that it never happens again.”

A recent sign of bipartisan support suggests that the legislation is well on its way to becoming law sooner than later. On March 19 it was unanimously voted out of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee. This past Monday, the bill received the same positive vote when it was reported out of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Its swift progress through the legislative process underscores its importance in protecting vulnerable children across Pennsylvania.

“We still have much work to do to improve Pennsylvania’s child abuse system,” said Senator Kearney. “But this legislation represents a crucial step forward in safeguarding the well-being of our children while upholding due process rights.”

Senate Bill 1018 will now be sent to the PA House of Representatives, where it will be referred to committee for consideration.