Child abuse prevention legislation is signed into law
Public Relations - Published: August 17, 2012
Law Dean Linda L. Ammons watched several of her recommendations for keeping Delaware children safe from abuse signed into law yesterday, when she attended a ceremony with Gov. Jack Markell, lawmakers and other state officials.

Markell signed House substitute no. 1 for House Bill 371 into law at the Children’s Advocacy Center in Dover on Aug. 16. The ceremony was a celebration of collaborative efforts at all levels of state government, which took recommendations from the dean’s 2010 report and found ways to execute them.

“We are so grateful to you, Dean Ammons, for the work you did. Thank you for stepping up when the state really needed you. You were uniquely qualified to help,” Markell said.

The governor tapped Ammons to conduct an independent review into the matter of pediatrician Earl Bradley in January 2010. The request came days after Bradley was arrested on charges he sexually abused more than 100 of his young patients. He was later convicted.

Markell asked the dean to probe Delaware statutory and administrative procedures governing child abuse and exploitation to explain how criminal behavior at such a massive scale could have gone undetected for so long. Prosecutors maintained the abuse dated back decades. Working on a pro bono basis, Ammons spoke with nearly 70 people around the country in an exhaustive examination of the facts and circumstances. In May 2010 she presented the governor with a list of 68 recommendations, ranging from proposed changes in state law to more public accountability for the people who investigate misconduct claims against physicians.

The General Assembly unanimously passed a package of nine bills in 2011 that encapsulated many of the dean’s recommendations. The bill signed Aug. 16 took more time as it involved thoughtful teamwork across state agencies to create effective procedures.

“I’m so pleased we are able to sustain the vision we have had and the structure we formed to protect the children of Delaware,” said Widener Law alumna Vivian Rapposelli ‘93. She is the governor’s cabinet secretary for the Department of Services For Children Youth and Their Families. She is also a member of the law school Board of Overseers.

The legislation:
  • Uses the case management system of Rapposelli’s department to track every case of child abuse and neglect.
  • Establishes an investigation coordinator within the department to track and monitor each reported case of child abuse from inception to final criminal and civil disposition.
  • Ensures the reporting of every death and near-death case due to child abuse or neglect to the state Child Death, Near Death and Stillbirth Commission.
  • Reinforces the duty to report suspected perpetrators to the Division of Professional Regulation and other agencies.
  • Requires the reporting of status, trends and civil and criminal outcomes of these cases to the Child Protection Accountability Commission.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden also attended the ceremony, noting the legislation was something good to come from the tragedy.

“I think it will prove to be an essential tool to protecting children,” Biden said.

Ammons stood alongside the governor as he signed the legislation. She said the investigation and report were among the most important highlights of her career.

“I’m very proud the work I was able to do has life and has meaning, and will continue to serve the people of Delaware” Ammons said. “I commend the governor and the legislature for doing what has to be done and I thank my Widener family for allowing me to do this.”

Chief sponsors of the legislation were Sen. Patty Blevins, the Democratic majority leader, and Rep. Melanie George Smith. Blevins said the bill sounded simple but it was complicated by the number of people and offices it required to share information.

“This is going to make a big, big difference. It’s dry stuff – it’s data. But it’s going to have a big impact,” Blevins said. “Dean Ammons we’ll never be able to thank you enough for what you did for the children of the state of Delaware.”