By Maribeth Roman Schmidt
The grand jury report on the death of Jarrod Tutko, Jr. of Harrisburg shines a bright light on Pennsylvania's dysfunctional child protection system.
The report reveals that Dauphin County Children and Youth Services received reports about the Tutko children in 2006, 2008, 2010 (two reports), and yet again in 2013. the county agency failed to investigate the 2006 and December 2010 referrals.
It investigated the 2008, February 2010, and October 2013 referrals, but took no action.
On July 29, 2014, less than one year after the last visit from Children & Youth Services, Jarrod Tutko, Jr. died.
He was nine years old but weighed just 16.9 pounds, the average weight of a six-month-old boy.
His feet were caked with blue carpet fibers and feces that had actually become embedded in his skin. Jarrod's sister was also in respiratory distress, malnourished, and filthy.
Turning back the clock to November 2011, when then-Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly released the grand jury presentment that led to the conviction of Jerry Sandusky, she didn't talk about the need for better training for Children & Youth Services employees.
But as in the Tutko case, child welfare authorities failed to act. They did not identify Sandusky as a child molester when he was first reported in 1998.
The police report, interview transcripts, and other documents reveal that numerous signs of possible sexual abuse were uncovered during the 1998 investigation.
Despite multiple warnings, the Pennsylvania agencies charged with child welfare inexplicably determined that Sandusky wasn't a danger to children.
Yet, the Attorney General's Office has repeatedly emphasized Penn State's purported reporting failures, causing the public to believe that a simple phone call to ChildLine could have stopped Sandusky.
Unfortunately, the reforms made in the wake of the Sandusky case have focused almost entirely on reporting.
Both the Sandusky and Tutko cases show that Pennsylvania needs to implement paradigm-shifting changes to ensure that reports are properly investigated. Reports that are ignored do no good.
As we have pointed out many times before, the sensationalization of the Sandusky case has obfuscated lessons that should have been learned from this tragic case.
But it is never too late to learn. The time has come to review the operations of all Pennsylvania child welfare agencies, and make meaningful reforms based on those reviews.
The safety of Pennsylvania's children depends on it.
Maribeth Roman Schmidt is the executive director of Penn Staters for Responsible Stewardship, an organization that seeks an overhaul of the Penn State University Board of Trustees.
Read More: Grand Jury report reveals agency in disarray
Read More: The full Tutko grand jury report