The Associated Press, May 14, 1999

Jeb Bush Signs Child Abuse Law

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Six months after the beating death of a 6-year-old girl, Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday signed a law intended to plug holes in the state's child abuse investigation system.

The Kayla McKean Child Protection Act addresses many of the problems that allowed the girl's repeated abuse by her father to go undetected by state investigators.

``It will make us much more vigilant in the effort of protecting children,'' Bush said.

The law requires the Florida Department of Children & Families to contact law enforcement officials and work with them when child abuse is suspected.

The agency also must assign a single caseworker to each investigation and caseworkers must maintain a master file containing all reports of abuse. The agency also must investigate any suspicions of child abuse reported by judges, teachers or school officials. Judges will be bound by law to report suspected abuse.

There must be face-to-face interviews with the child, siblings and parents during all investigations, under the new law. Any adult who fails to report abuse or neglect taking place in his or her household can be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by five years in prison.

``It means a lot to me,'' said Kayla's mother, Elisabeth McKean, who attended the signing ceremony. ``It means Kayla's death wasn't senseless. It means that other kids will be protected.''

Kayla's father, Richard Adams, 24, is charged with murder and allegedly confessed to beating her after she soiled her underwear last year.

The Department of Children and Families came under scrutiny and the agency has conceded that its investigators and caseworkers missed repeated signs that Kayla was being abused.

Return to Newsroom Index or to Table of Contents