The Health and Human Services Committee favorably recommended SB57, a bill clarifying definitions of chronic abuse and chronic neglect, Jan. 29.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, would specify that abuse or neglect cannot be an isolated incident in order to qualify for chronic abuse or chronic neglect.
Weiler said former Utah Congressman Chris Cannon asked him to sponsor the bill because of an incident involving Cannon’s son-in-law. One night, Cannon’s son-in-law left his two young children unattended in the bathtub “for a second” according to Weiler, and the older of the two children unknowingly turned off the cold water. The hot water was left running, resulting in the younger child being severely scalded.
A referral was made to the Division of Family and Child Services and an investigation was conducted.
“I think most rational people would say, ‘Well, wow, this is a terrible thing, what the father did was wrong, but clearly this isn’t evidence of a pattern of abuse or chronic abuse,’ but that’s not what happened here,” Weiler said.
The family received threats and intimidation for almost two years. Just before going to trial, they reached a settlement.
“(Chris Cannon) said the state was pursuing a tortured interpretation that a pattern of abuse could be established with a single incident,” Weiler said.
Diane Moore, director of the Utah Division of Family and Child Services, attended the committee meeting to show her support for the bill.
“We agree with the wording in this bill,” she said. “It probably is how it always should have been applied, and we welcome any distinction that will help us calibrate our services correctly. Anything that can help us get it right by our community and be able to serve families to the best of our ability, we welcome.”
The committee voted unanimously for the bill to move forward with a favorable recommendation.