Rep. Susan Concannon, R-Beloit, gained tentative Kansas House approval of bill reforming Adrian’s Law to upgrade physician training and examination of suspected child abuse victims under age 5. Two GOP lawmakers objected to cost and scope of the reform bill. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
TOPEKA — The Kansas House deflected an attempt to water down an abuse-and-neglect investigation bill Monday before approving a program to standardize education and evaluation of children 0-5 years of age suspected of being victims of physical, mental or medical crime.
Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican and chairwoman of the House Children and Seniors Committee, said the bill was essential to create a uniform system of training and mentoring physicians and other health professionals in all forms of abuse to better shield children from harm and improve identification of alleged abusers. Provisions of House Bill 2632 were drawn from a Missouri law on the books for a decade.
“Data shows from numerous studies that there needs to be a change in practice to appropriately screen for abuse,” she said.
Under the bill endorsed by state agencies and health organizations, approximately $819,000 would be set aside annually to pay for training and examination of children. If passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Laura Kelly, the statute would be evaluated for effectiveness no later than 2026. The House voted 95-27 to forward the bill to the Senate.
Rep. Susan Humphries, R-Wichita, said she didn’t believe the legislation was “ready for prime time.” She proposed an amendment, rejected by the full House, to limit examinations required under the bill to medical or physical neglect and physical abuse. She wanted to remove language extending the program to instances of emotional abuse.
A bipartisan contingent of state representatives disagreed with Humphries’ idea of restraining the type of cases falling under the umbrella of the Revised Kansas Code for Care of Children.
“The emotional abuse needs to stay in there,” said Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Kansas City, Kansas, Democrat and clinical social worker who has performed screenings of children.
Rep. Cyndi Howerton, R-Wichita, said she was concerned the bill was endorsed by the same medical professionals who would receive training at state taxpayer expense and be paid by state taxpayers for expanded services of potentially abused children.
Endorsements of the bill were offered by the Kansas Academy of Family Physicians and Kansas chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“I’m actually almost offended by the point that this is brought by physicians for the payment,” Concannon said.
“I understand, but that is how it looks,” Howerton said. “I have one last question for you. Do we need a bill?”
“This needs to be set in statute,” Concannon said. “This is to catch the abuse.”
In May 2021, Kelly signed a bill unanimously passed by the Legislature that recognized the torture and murder of the late Adrian Jones. The law mandated investigations of child abuse or neglect include visual observation of alleged victims by law enforcement officers or health care providers.
The statute was named in remembrance of Jones, who was 7 when starved to death by his father and stepmother near Kansas City, Kansas. He endured years of physical and emotional torture that was reported to officials in both Kansas and Missouri. The child died in 2015 and his father fed the boy’s body to hogs.
Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Bonner Springs, said law enforcement officers supported development of uniform training and examinations.
“Two reasons,” he said. “One, to protect our kids. Secondly, it protects innocent people. How bad to accuse some adult of doing something wrong when they didn’t. This is a good bill.”
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