How did Michael Jackson get elected to our Legislature?

A disturbing bill proposed this year, HB202, would reverse decades of headway the Department of Children and Family Services has made in protecting Utah’s children.

Proposed by Rep. Wayne Harper, R-West Jordan, this 97-page bill would change more than 40 sections of the current law and could put children at risk of dying.

Everyone knows someone who’s been abused. Child abuse and neglect is often brushed under the rug. No one wants to acknowledge that Suzie down the street or Johnny at the playground has signs of abuse.

Teachers are mandated by the state to report any signs of abuse but are many times so overworked and overloaded that the signs go unnoticed. Not all teachers ignore the problem. I know of countless educators who have gone above and beyond expectations to protect children. However, with Utah schools overcrowded and under-funded, how can we expect our trained professionals to watch out for every child?

If HB202 passes, safeguards that protect children from maltreatment would be so lenient that only parents under the influence of drugs or alcohol would be held accountable. Additionally, parents would be allowed to say abuse was “unintentional” or that they didn’t realize what they were doing was abuse.

Do you want parents in Utah to get away with terrorizing their children because they are ignorant? Ignorance is no excuse for abuse-not of children, wives or society.

Harper believes parents are seriously disadvantaged in the courtroom. He said, “They are almost in a position of being guilty until proven innocent.”

I believe this policy is necessary where there is a history of suspicious behavior. If the DCFS is too lenient, children may die. This was the case in 2001 when 6-month-old Nathan Scheer was killed by his mother after DCFS left the child in her custody despite numerous signs of abuse. There was also documentation showing the mother was unstable and schizophrenic.

I am not criticizing DCFS, but arguing that HB202 will make it even more difficult for the DCFS to protect at-risk children.

Everyone who now has, or at any time plans on having, children should be concerned with this issue. We need to come together as a community to stop this bill. It was thrown out last year-let’s hope history repeats itself.

Write to Rep. Harper and let him know this bill, which he claims “swings the pendulum back to where everybody has an equal basis,” is outrageous.

How can a child be on equal footing with an adult (who is possibly his or her abuser)?

Please, think of the children.

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