Press Release: With the Primary Election right around the corner, Denise Maris, the Democratic candidate for the State House of Representatives from the 76th District, is not wasting any time getting down to business.
On Thursday, March 3, Ms. Maris met with child rights activists Donna Kshir (Clinton County, Pennsylvania) and Lee Roberts (Crestview, Florida). Both Ms. Kshir and Roberts are highly respected activists using their voice for Conner’s Law – Kentucky and receiving a Letter of Recommendation, Animal Rescue, Rights, Children’s Rights, Missing and Unidentified Persons, the Homeless, Domestic Violence, and the Deaf Community.
In July, the duo proposed to open the current Child Abuse Central Registry to provide parents and caregivers with the tool to protect their children. The idea to help better protect children came to Ms. Kshir and Roberts after 2-year-old Conner Bachuss was murdered by his mother’s then-boyfriend Ronald Saunders.
The duo told Ms. Maris, if Conner’s mother, Mashanna Waggoner had known Saunders had a violent past, she would have never gotten involved with him. Saunders served 5.5 years for killing the toddler. A month after his release, he was arrested in Oklahoma on new charges of criminal abuse in the 1st degree. If April Brandt, mother of the second victim, had known about Saunders’ prior conviction, she would have never exposed her daughter to this ‘monster.’
Ms. Kshir said, “if these women had only known.” She added, “Why don’t they have the right to know who has a violent past? Why do we continue to hide the crimes of people who abuse and kill children? It makes me sick to know that people who abuse and kill children are protected. What about the children? Where is their protection? There must be a change to the current registry. It needs to be made public. People have a right to know. We need to arm parents with information so they can better protect their children.”
The Central Registry is a private database that law enforcement and state agencies utilize when receiving suspected abuse or neglect reports. Reports from the database aid agencies in their investigation of child abuse cases. These records are utilized to conduct background checks on prospective foster and adoptive parents, daycare workers, schools, volunteers, and employment checks.
Ms. Maris is a mother of 4, grandmother of 2 and is a strong voice for our children. She has a clear understanding of what it’s like to raise a family, work full-time and manage a household while living paycheck to paycheck. She knows what it’s like to deal with the hidden stress of unexpected expenses such as car repairs, medical expenses, and more while trying to protect your children from the unknown. As a former elementary school bus driver, Ms. Maris understands that our most vulnerable population is not only our seniors but our children. We must protect them with all the tools available to us for without our children, we have no future. We are in a time where knowledge and technology are at our fingertips, but with that also come predators and abusers that can take advantage of a system that is broken.
Ms. Kshir said, “The current Central Registry, as it now stands, leaves millions of parents and caregivers nationwide in the dark on how to protect their children from those convicted of child abuse and neglect.”
The proposed amendment to the current private Central Registry would make the registry available to the public. It would require law enforcement agencies to make information available on individuals convicted of child abuse or death related to child abuse.
“Everyone I have spoken with said if they had known the person had a violent past they would have never got involved with them. If they had known this information beforehand, their child would have never experienced the traumas of abuse. Knowing who is an abuser is key to protecting children,” Ms. Kshir added.
Ms. Kshir and Roberts were advised to consider the cost of maintaining the website with the proposed change. The duo stated as the existing registry is presently maintained by law officials there would be no real added costs with the proposed change. “The only adjustment would be making the information public of those convicted of child abuse while keeping the names of victims confidential,” Roberts said
Ms. Maris, the Director of Human Resources at the Susque-View Home in Lock Haven, said her first order of business when she is elected as State Representative for the 76th District is to sponsor the amendment and present it to the House of Representatives on behalf of Ms. Kshir and Roberts but also for the children of Pennsylvania who she believes should be protected at all costs. She believes the proposed amendment would monumentally impact the lives of children and families by significantly reducing the number of children exposed to abuse and neglect.
Roberts, said, “It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to protect them. We must do wherever we can to ensure their safety. In this case, it means making the Central Registry public.’
Ms. Maris received a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Management from Lock Haven University. She is a graduate of Leadership Clinton County Class of 2018, a member of the Downtown Lock Haven Rotary Club, and is the current President of the West Branch Society for Human Resources located in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.