TOPEKA, Kan. (FOX4KC/WDAF) — A new Kansas law is creating harsher penalties for child abusers. Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed House Bill 2508 into law Monday.
Advocacy groups and victims’ families say they are glad to see the development.
The new law specifically looks at different types of abuse children face and ups the penalties. Advocates are hoping this not only keeps kids in safer situations but shows abusers that child abuse is a serious crime.
“Adrian continues to be my angel,” Judy Walsh said of her grandson, Adrian Jones. “He has given me the strength to do a lot of things that I’ve done without him.”
Adrian was discovered after his death in 2015 after years of child abuse. His father and stepmother were convicted of first-degree murder and will serve at least 25 years in prison each. Investigators say Jones was starved and tortured at the hands of Michael and Heather Jones.
“I think the more we get involved as adults and be the voices of these children. It’s going to benefit these children. There’s no way that it can’t benefit them,” Walsh said.
Natalie Julien, president & CEO of Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of Johnson and Wyandotte Counties, agrees.
“We want to make sure that the child’s voice is heard,” Julien said.
They provide advocates for children in the foster care system by being their voice in court and life.
“The legislation is definitely, you know, a positive movement, you know, for prevention, and also for keeping our kids safe after they’ve had to deal with something like this,” Julien said.
Julien said they can always use more volunteer advocates to help children who’ve experienced abuse.
“Unfortunately, the kids do have to go through a lot of change through this process from going to different foster homes, different schools, having to work with different providers, but through all of that, they know that they have this one person that is that constant, that consistent person in their life, who cares about what happens to them,” Julien said.
Kansas Senator Molly Baumgardner supported the new law.
“I believe HB 2508 was an important next step taken by the Kansas Legislature to protect the vulnerable children in our communities from future abuse and neglect. Now that the bill’s been signed into law, our judicial system is enabled to hold child abuse offenders appropriately accountable with harsher sentencing options.”Kansas State Senator, Molly Baumgardner (R)
Text of HB 2508:
- Knowingly torturing, cruelly beating, cruelly striking, or cruelly kicking (this conduct is a severity level 5 person felony if the child is at least 6 years of age but less than 18 years of age and a severity level 3 person felony if the child is under 6 years of age);
- Knowingly inflicting cruel and inhuman corporal punishment or knowingly using cruel and inhuman physical restraint, including caging or confining the child in a space not designated for human habitation or binding the child in a way that is not medically necessary (this conduct is a severity level 5 person felony if the child is at least 6 years of age but less than 18 years of age and a severity level 3 person felony if the child is under 6 years of age);
- Recklessly causing great bodily harm, abusive head trauma, permanent disability, or disfigurement (this conduct is a severity level 4 person felony);
- Knowingly causing great bodily harm, abusive head trauma, permanent disability, or disfigurement (this conduct is a severity level 3 person felony);
- Knowingly inflicting cruel and inhuman corporal punishment with a deadly weapon (this conduct is a severity level 3 person felony); or
- Knowingly impeding the normal breathing or circulation of the blood by applying pressure on the throat, neck, or chest of the child or by blocking the nose or mouth of the child in a manner whereby death or great bodily harm may be inflicted (this conduct is a severity level 3 person felony).
Interested in becoming a foster or adoptive parent in Kansas?
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Want to become a CASA for foster children?
According to CASA’s website, a court-appointed special advocate can make a life-changing difference for children who have experienced abuse or neglect. Each volunteer is appointed by a judge to advocate for a child’s best interest in court.
Their volunteers help judges develop a fuller picture of each child’s life. Their advocacy enables judges to make the most well-informed decision for each child.
To view the CASA programs for Kansas, click here.