Court: Abuser can’t oversee boy

Leaving a young boy alone with a registered sex offender has been deemed an act of child abuse by the Pennsylvania Superior Court, which made the ruling last week in a Bedford County case.

Upon learning that the mother of the 9-year-old had left her son unsupervised with her boyfriend on several occasions, and knowing the boyfriend was a registered sex offender, Bedford County Children and Youth Services last summer applied for an emergency protective order before Judge Thomas S. Ling.

The judge found in favor the child welfare agency, and, after an ensuing shelter care hearing, he placed the child with his maternal grandparents.

The mother, whose name was not revealed in the Superior Court opinion, stated tjat she knew her boyfriend was a registered sex offender, but she also contended that the charges against him, filed in he 1990s, were not true.

She maintained her actions did not amount to “child abuse” under Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Act.

When the Bedford judge found her act was tantamount to child abuse and ordered the child placed outside her home, she appealed the ruling to the state Superior Court through attorney Anthony J. Zanoni of Bedford.

The mother’s legal argument was that CYS needed to demonstrate “actual harm or real risk of harm to the child’s interests and welfare” for her act to rise to the level of child abuse.

In its ruling Thursday a Superior Court panel consisting of Judges Maria McLaughlin, Daniel D. McCaffery and Dan Pellegrini, pointed out the law, under the definition of child abuse, includes “leaving a child unsupervised with someone who has to register (as a sex offender) for life.”

The mother’s boyfriend was subject to lifetime registration under Pennsylvania’s sexual offender laws,” according to the Superior Court.

In a footnote within the opinion, the appeals court stated the mother’s actions could also meet the definition of child abuse for “intentionally, knowingly or recklessly creating the likelihood of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any recent act or failure to act.”

The judges referred to conclusions by the Pennsylvania General Assembly that sexually violent predators pose a high risk to children even after being released from prison, and they concluded “protection of the public from this type of offender is a paramount governmental interest.”

The Superior Court upheld Ling’s granting of a protective order and the removal of the child from the mother’s care.

The boyfriend in the case was sentenced in 1992 to a prison term of 12 to 24 years for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse.

He also pleaded guilty in a separate case to statutory rape.

The mother knew of her boyfriend’s background and knew he was a registered sexual offender but said she believed his story that he had not committed the offenses.

The appeals court also noted the boyfriend had failed to complete a sexual offender treatment program.

The case was placed on the Superior Court Children’s Fast Track for speedy resolution of the issues.