Gabbard, Takai Introduce Talia’s Law
Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai introduced Talia’s Law on Tuesday.
Talia Williams, a five-year-old daughter of a man stationed in Hawai’i was beaten to death in 2005. Legal proceedings against William’s father showed that federal employees, including military police and workers at her on-based child care facility, were aware of the suspected signs of her abuse and failed to report the observations.
“Talia’s tragic story is just one of over 29,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in military homes over the last decade,” said Representative Gabbard in a speech on the House floor. “This is a problem that demands better protections for our children in military families who are being abused, and better support for military families facing the stresses of war, multiple deployments, and economic hardship.
“I’ve introduced Talia’s Law today to require military officials to immediately report suspected cases of abuse to State Child Protective Services. We owe it to our service members, their families, and thousands of children like Talia to disrupt the status quo and stop another decade of preventable child abuse.”
The military’s Family Advocacy Programs currently identifies individuals who are mandated to report known or suspected cases of child abuse to a report point of contact, who conducts an assessment investigation into the reported child abuse. These people are generally physicians, psychologists, social workers, and teachers.
Each branch of the service in every state requires the report point of contact to communicate with State Child Protective Services.
Under Talia’s Law, the communication gap would be narrowed as the law would require mandated reporters with the Department of Defense to report directly to State Child Protective Services or the appropriate state agency, in addition to the designated DOD point of contact or chain of command. The law would also require that reporters receive training in accordance with state guidelines to improve their ability to recognize evidence of child abuse and neglect, and understand mandatory reporting requirements imposed by law.
“This change of law is an issue that the Hawaiʻi delegation must lead on,” said Representative Takai. “Our military keiki should never feel unsafe or neglected. I hope that through Talia’s Law, we make the necessary changes to protect these military families and their children. There should never be a situation where child abuse can be neglected simply because the information did not make it to the right person.”