Any parent who has temporarily lost track of a small child in a department store or public venue like the Kansas State Fair knows the feeling of desperation and anguish such a situation causes. So the fact that Florida mother Casey Anthony failed to report to the police in a timely manner that her toddler daughter, Caylee, was missing is difficult to comprehend. The child's grandparents finally reported her absence after a month had passed.
Sadly, the Casey Anthony case has made it clear that Kansas and other states need well-defined reporting standards for cases of child disappearance and stronger laws penalizing parents and guardians for failing to report the disappearance of a child.
A primary responsibility of state government is to protect the safety of children. There is no defensible reason why a child's disappearance should go unreported.
We plan to work together to review our state laws regarding this issue in Kansas and hope to address the situation in the next legislative session. Kansas law needs to ensure that law enforcement and other authorities have the information necessary to safely recover missing children as soon as is humanly possible. And it should include criminal penalties that are rigorous enough to address the intentional failure to report a child's disappearance or death.
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The crafting of this law will be a deliberate process, and we will be looking for input from law enforcement and the criminal justice system before moving forward with the actual legislation. There are numerous approaches and suggestions as to how to write an effective law of this nature.
Florida is considering a law that would make it a felony to fail to report the death of a child, or the "location of a child's corpse," within two hours of death.
Alabama's proposal is to require the notification of a child's death within an hour, and a disappearance within 24 hours.
It would be constructive to include an age limit, perhaps 12 or 13.
This is an emotional issue that goes to the heart of both parental and government responsibility.
Parental rights must be respected, but the final result must put the welfare, well-being — and survival — of our children first.