Child welfare safety bill reintroduced in state Senate

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne/Pikc/Susquehanna/Wayne/ Wyoming, speaks during a recent Senate Judiciary Committee.

A bipartisan piece of legislation has been reintroduced in the state Senate to clarify to courts that the safety and welfare of children is placed above all other issues in child custody cases.

Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne/Pikc/Susquehanna/Wayne/ Wyoming, and Sen. Steven J. Santarsiero, D-Bucks, have introduced Senate Bill 78, known as Kayden’s Law in memory of Kayden Mancuso.

Mancuso was a 7-year-old who was murdered by her biological father during a court-ordered visit. According to the legislative memorandum, a psychological evaluation had stated Kayden’s father had suicidal thoughts, depression and showed violent tendencies. The man also reportedly had previous assault convictions and a three-year protection from abuse order. Baker and Santarsiero say the evaluation was largely ignored when Mancuso was granted unsupervised visits with Kayden, contingent on him entering mental health treatment.

“Our court system and current state law failed to ensure the health and safety of Kayden Mancuso, and for that reason, she became the 647th child of a divorced or separated couple to be murdered by a parent since 2008,” the senators said in their legislative memorandum.

“What happened to Kayden was a heartbreaking tragedy, but, unfortunately, not unique. When courts fail to read the signs of domestic abuse and award custody of a child or visitation rights to an abuser the consequences can be dire. A review of 4,000 domestic court cases show that the abuser wins custody or unsupervised visitation 81%of the time.”

Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-Bucks, speaks at a 2019 news conference.

Kayden’s Law would strengthen the current factors that judges must consider in making custody and visitation decisions; ensure that if there is a finding by the court of a history of abuse or an ongoing risk of abuse, that any custody order includes safety conditions and restrictions necessary to protect the child; and encourage the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to implement an annual educational and training program for judges and relevant court personnel on child abuse, adverse childhood experiences, domestic violence, and its impact on children.

Mancuso’s mother has filed a wrongful death lawsuit alleging county, local and state systems failed to protect Kayden Mancuso. According to the Bucks County Courier Times, Among the defendants named in the suit is Bucks County Judge Jeffrey G. Trauger, who oversaw the custody case; and 12 others, including the Bucks County and Pennsylvania Bar Associations, the Pennsylvania departments of human services and child protective services, Falls Township and Philadelphia police departments, and the Pennsbury School District.

The family alleges Falls and Philadelphia police refused to assist them after Mancuso did not return Kayden at the required time. The lawsuit also alleges multiple agencies failed to provide a safe environment for Kayden Mancuso, failed to properly “supervise, monitor and investigate” Kayden’s father, ignored warning signs and and failed to provide vital information to the courts about Mancuso’s behavior.


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