July 21, 2011
By Larry Farnese

Caylee Anthony will never have the chance to grow up as a fun-loving little girl; she’ll never again play in a park or on a swing. Her life was too short.

The fact that little Caylee was missing for more than a month with few people knowing it is a tragedy. Her life ended because her support systems failed. Her family failed her, and so did the justice system.

We may never know what the child endured before she died. We do know, however, that her mother, Casey, was reportedly partying and shopping during the 31 days before the police were called.

Regardless of the jury’s not-guilty verdict for Casey Anthony in the murder of her innocent toddler, the mother’s supposedly carefree conduct following Caylee’s disappearance is shocking and reprehensible. We still don’t know why Casey and her family waited so long to contact the authorities – but Caylee’s tragic death must not be in vain.

The Casey Anthony case underscores the need for all states to take a hard look at the laws that protect children. Here in Pennsylvania, we can’t be content to close our eyes and hope this kind of situation doesn’t happen again. It’s time to redouble our efforts and look ahead.

In an effort to ensure that no child in Pennsylvania suffers the same fate as Caylee, I’ve introduced legislation that would strengthen penalties against those who conceal the death of a child. I’ve named the legislation “Caylee’s Law” in honor of the little girl whose life, and death, gained national attention.

My legislation would toughen the penalty for concealing the death of a child from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. This increase in classification carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison and a fine of $15,000. It would also create the offense of “Neglecting to report a missing child” as a first-degree misdemeanor, carrying a maximum prison sentence of five years and a fine of $10,000.

Sometimes, it takes a headline-grabbing, heinous crime to remind lawmakers and law enforcers alike that we must act. As legislators, it is our job to protect our citizens from the same crimes that occur throughout the country. We must remain constantly vigilant and diligent about strengthening our laws, especially when it comes to protecting innocent children.

What happened to Caylee Anthony is heartbreaking and frustrating. That her mother neglected to report her child missing is sickening.

While we can’t bring Caylee back, we can take steps to discourage parents and guardians from hesitating to report a missing child. Those critical minutes and hours could mean the difference between life and death. As adults, we have a responsibility to ensure our children’s safety, whether we are parents, emergency responders or legislators.

I’m committed to protecting the state’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens from peril and injustice. This legislation is one way to do that.