Posts tagged: Children
Gov. Chris Gregoire today signed into law House Bill 1596, which declares that the right of a mother to breastfeed her child in public places is a civil right protected by Washington’s anti-discrimination law.
“This new law will eliminate one more obstacle that women are faced with day in and day out,” said Rep. Tami Green, D-Lakewood. It takes effect in 90 days.
Washington is already one of at least 25 states that have passed laws explicitly declaring that breastfeeding or expressing breast milk does not constitute indecent exposure. In a move intended to prod businesses into making more accomodations for breastfeeding moms, the state also has a law allowing employers to say they’re “infant-friendly” if they allow flexible work schedules and clean facilities for moms.
The new law protects against discrimination by declaring that women can breastfeed a child “in any place of public resort, accomodation, assemblage or amusement.” That includes restaurants, hotels, motels, stores, malls, theaters, concert halls, parks, fairs, libraries, schools, hospitals and government offices.
Complaints would be investigated by the state Human Rights Commission. Based on results involving similar laws in Vermont and Hawaii, the commission estimates that it will field 4-5 complaints a year. It says that Washington has a high percentage of breastfeeding moms, particularly among immigrants and low-income women.
In House and Senate hearings, no one testified against the bill. But proponents said that women continue to be asked to leave public places while breastfeeding. Such hassles, they said, may contribute to a sharp dropoff in breastfeeding at 6 weeks and 6 months.
Photo: Colleen Beimer, from Bonney Lake, cries while holding a picture of her grandchildren. Richard Roesler - The Spokesman Review
Lawmakers, parents and a local prosecutor on Thursday blasted state child-protection officials, saying the state is too quick to remove children from their families.
“The system is broken. The children are forgotten,” said Stevens County Prosecutor Tim Rasmussen. He said he found “a culture of deceit and deception” among Child Protective Services workers in Colville.
The standing-room-only crowd, numbering about 100, was full of parents and grandparents, some holding photographs of children.
Thursday’s meeting was called by state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, who’s been highly critical of state officials for months in a case involving grandparents’ efforts to get custody of their 3-year-old granddaughter.
“Lies are put on desks,” Roach said on the Senate floor later in the day. “Children are being hurt.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Social and Health Services said officials take such allegations very seriously.
“If someone believes that any of our staff have been dishonest, falsified documents or have retaliated against families, we ask that people report this to the Children’s Administration or Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman,” said Sherry Hill.
“The first priority of the Children’s Administration is the safety of children,” she said. “Our goal is to keep children in their home as long as they are safe.”
Of the child abuse and neglect cases investigated, she said, fewer than 20 percent result in the children being placed in foster care. And when that does happen, Hill said, “we then work toward reunification with the family if that is possible.”
(This admittedly falls into the category of better-late-than-never news, but I suspect that proponents would say the same thing of the bill itself.)
Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law a bill — closely watched in Spokane — to extend the statute of limitations for some sex crimes against children. Instead of having to prosecute things like first-degree rape of a child under 14 by the time the victim turns 21 or 24, for example, law enforcement could go after the perpetrator up until the time that same victim turns 28.
For years, former local prosecutor Don Brockett has been beating the drum for complete elimination of the statute of limitations in major child sex crimes. Some things, the reasoning goes, are so horrific and life-changing that the offender should spent the rest of his life looking over his shoulder, worried about a police knock on the door.
Local lawmakers, including state Sen. Chris Marr and former state Rep. John Ahern, tried to make that change in recent years, only to run into resistance from lawmakers and some victims advocates and prosecutors. It does no good, opponents argued, to wrongly give victims false hope of prosecuting a case decades after the fact, as documents are lost and memories fade. And defense attorneys argued that it would be extremely difficult to defend an innocent person in such cases.
“Who could imagine that protecting today’s kids from pedophiles by
giving yesterday’s victims a chance to grow up and realize the harm and
speak up would be controversial? But it was,” Spokane attorney Beth Bollinger wrote on her blog tracking progress of the bill all session.
Brockett (whom I couldn’t immediately reach) is clearly happy with the change, which makes it harder for rapists and molesters to run out the clock and avoid prosecution. But Brockett has long advocated no statute of limitations at all for a wide array of sex crimes involving children.
“You can be sure their molesters are keeping track of that time, knowing they will be able to continue to molest more children with the assurance they will not have the responsibility for their crimes and will not be recognized in the communities in which they live,” Brockett wrote today.
In February, Bollinger went to Olympia to testify on behalf of the change. Abuse victims feel shame and isolation, she and other advocates told the Senate Judiciary Committee, and even 28 is a pretty early age for someone to step forward and reveal past abuse.
After some starts and stops, the bill passed both houses unanimously and was signed into law last week by Gov. Gregoire. It takes effect July 26.
Bollinger wrote on her blog:
I ended up not going to the bill’s signing ceremony. Don didn’t go, and I just decided it would be a lot of driving for just a few minutes. It would have been fun but, in a way, it was unnecessary. The most important thing already had happened. The bill had become law.