HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-State lawmakers have put forth a bill that would require all Alabama residents to report suspected child abuse to the authorities.
House Bill 3 broadens an existing law which already mandates child abuse reporting for people who work in fields like education and health care. It would also give immunity to anyone who files a report that turns out to be false, as long as their claims were made in good faith and not blatantly dishonest.
The bill comes in the wake of several high-profile child abuse cases in Alabama, including one in Huntsville just two months ago when three children were found severly malnourished in a locked apartment. Huntsville police charged Norma Garcia, the children's mother, and Jose Vargas, her boyfriend, with three counts of child abuse after the troubling discovery on Eunice Street.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Scully-Clemmons heads up the family violence unit in Madison County, and called the proposed law a no-brainer.
"Obviously if we have another line of defense sort of allowing us to find out earlier about child abuse, that's a good thing," said Scully-Clemmons. "The thing to keep in mind when you're dealing with child abuse is a lot of times you're not going to get an outcry from the child for a variety of reasons, usually because of fear. So we do rely on adults."
Eighteen other states already have similar laws on the books. Alabama lawmakers will review the proposed legislation when they return to Montgomery in February.