Give Children in Maryland a Voice

BCAC’s Advocacy centers around preventing and softening the harm that adults inflict on children, much of which is intentional. Some is simply evil. None of it should happen. Adults inflict it so it is up to adults to stop it. To that end, our legislative team is working on several bills that address childhood trauma, mental health and ACEs.

New Laws in 2020

In the 2020 legislative session (which, like everything else, was cut short by the pandemic) Baltimore Child Abuse Center actively supported the following bills, most of which take effect October 1, 2020.

Dogs in Court – Child Victims
SB101 (Senator Simonaire)/HB311 (Delegate Malone)
This bill sets standards for Maryland courts to establish a program that would allow thoroughly trained dogs (including facility dogs like Manny) to assist child witnesses in all courtroom settings.

Sexual Solicitation of a Minor – Solicitation Through Parent, Guardian, or Custodian – Prohibition and Penalties
HB246(Delegate Pippy)/SB231 (Senator Lee)
Closed a terrible loophole and made it illegal to solicit the consent of a parent, guardian, or custodian of a minor for sexual acts with a minor.

Schools – Guidelines on Trauma-Informed Approach
HB277 (Delegate Wilkins)/ SB367 (Senator Washington)
This bill requires the State Department of Education, in consultation with the Maryland Department of Health and the Department of Human Services, to develop and publish guidelines on a trauma-informed approach to assist schools with understanding and responding to an individual (student, teacher or staff) with symptoms of chronic interpersonal trauma or traumatic stress. [The effective date is listed as July 1, 2020.]

Motion to Vacate Judgment – Human Trafficking (True Freedom Act of 2020)
HB0242 (Del. Atterbeary)/SB0206 (Sen. Lee)
This law, eight years in the making, will expand crimes that are a direct result of human trafficking (like drug and driving charges) that a trafficking victim can petition the court to be removed. [The bill’s effective date was June 1, 2020.]

Elder/vulnerable adult abuse – severe emotional distress
HB33 (Delegate Guyton)/SB153 (Senator West)
This bill would expand the definition of abuse of a vulnerable adult to include severe emotional distress.

Unfair, Abusive, or Deceptive Trade Practices – Exploitation of Vulnerable Adults
HB304 (Delegate Shetty)
This bill adds financial exploitation of vulnerable adults to the civil code so that the Office of the Attorney General to bring a certain actions under the Consumer Protection Act. Financial abuse is often accompanied by physical and sexual abuse in older adults.

Workforce Development – Debt Arrearage Suspension
HB234 (Del. Henson)/SB1006 (Sen. Carter)
This bill helps curb community gun violence by helping allow returning citizens to enter the local economy without unmanageable debt obligations. The law will suspend child support obligations for noncustodial parents who are incarcerated for more than 180 days (ie, 6 months, up from 18 months). Mounting child support debt for incarcerated parents often backfires, means noncustodial parents get out of jail with crippling debt, which in turns causes their driving privileges to be revoked, which in turns means they can’t get to work, which sends many into the underground economy, then back to a cycle of violence, incarceration or even an early death.

Passed by Legislature; Vetoed by Governor

Maryland Violence Intervention and Prevention Program VIPP Fund
HB822 (Del. Lierman)/ SB708 (Sen. Carter)
This bill provides critical sustained funding for violence intervention programs, including $3 million for hospital responder programs, and $3 million for SafeStreets. Governor vetoed it.

P.R.O.T.E.C.T. (Public Resources Organizing to End Crime Together) Program
SB929 (Senator Hayes)/ HB 1408 (Del. Attar)
This bill aimed to maximize the use of available resources to combat neighborhood decline and support strategies to reduce crime in Baltimore City and the State, in part by hiring a community coordinator for 10 high-crime micro-zones within the State. Governor vetoed it.

2020 Session Priorities

One of the biggest bills this session is the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission to fully fund Maryland’s schools. One piece of that focuses on funding for school guidance counselors, and mental health services. BCAC is working along with social work advocates, counselors and mental health advocates to make sure that our schools have critical trauma-informed care.

Along with Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force, BCAC is supporting vactur law that help Human trafficking survivors vacate petty crimes and charges that are a direct result of their victimization.

BCAC, in partnership with other advocates, is supporting other laws that help prevent or soften the harm that adults choose to inflict on kids. For example, we support bills that help prosecutors apprehend predators who solicit parents of children; that allow trained dogs to assist child witnesses in courthouse settings; extend civil and criminal penalties for predators whose crimes happened long ago; and help strengthen training for our mandatory reporters.

As part of LifeBridge Health’s comprehensive violence center, BCAC’s legislative team is also working on bills that address violence through the lifespan, including elder abuse, street violence and urban gun violence.

2019 Session Recap

In 2019, two of the main bills that BCAC worked on with our many partners became law. One, HB1007/SB739, clarified the definition of children’s advocacy centers, delineated the role of the Maryland Children’s Alliance, and made sure all the CACs in the state are on the path to being accredited. Thank you to Delegate Emily Shetty and Senator Susan Lee, cosponsors, the Maryland Children’s Alliance and CACs around the state for passing this law on its first try.

Another bill, HB 787/SB568 made sure that mandated reporters who willfully choose to ignore obvious child abuse will face criminal penalties or stiff fines. Thank you to Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary and Senator Susan Lee and cosponsors and advocates for finally moving this decade(s)-old piece of legislation into law.