Tonawanda News — Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, urged his colleagues in the state senate and assembly Friday to pass the Protect Our Children Act, which he says would safeguard children from cruel and repeated maltreatment.
The senate passed the bill last year, but it never passed the assembly.
"This legislation will help to protect our children from anyone who is put in a position of trust to care for them and instead commits the ultimate violation and in some way abuses them," Grisanti, who is sponsoring the bill, said. "If approved, this bill would increase the severity of punishment for anyone who would cause harm to a child."
The law defines a person of trust as "any person who is charged with any duty or responsibility for the health, education, welfare, supervision or care of another person, either independently or through another person under 14 years of age, no matter how brief a time period it may be."
Under the bill, the severity of punishments would increase for the offenses of aggravated murder of a child, aggravated abuse of a child in the third degree, aggravated abuse of a child in the second degree, aggravated abused of a child in the first degree, aggravated manslaughter of a child, aggravated endangering the welfare of a child and concealment of death.
Harsher punishment would also be imposed for the murder of a child under 14 years of age while in the course of committing certain sex offenses.
According to statistics obtained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 675,000 children were victims of child abuse last year, with more than 1,500 children dying as a result of abuse or neglect.
Grisanti noted that April, Child Abuse Prevention Month, is an appropriate time for the passage of the bill.
"A community that cares about parental support, early childhood development and maternal mental health issues can help foster nurturing families and healthy children," he said. "For those who do commit abuse, we must have laws on the books that punish them for this inconceivable and reckless behavior."