Kayden Mancuso

Kayden Mancuso

NEWTOWN >> State Senator Steve Santarsiero (D-10), state Representatives Tina Davis (D-141) and Perry Warren (D-31), and family members of the late Kayden Mancuso, held a press call on Oct. 4 to announce the introduction of SB 868, and a companion House Bill, also known as “Kayden’s Law.”

Kayden Mancuso, a seven-year-old of Lower Makefield Township, was killed in August of 2018 by her biological father during a court-ordered, unsupervised visit granted following a year-long custody dispute. The bill is named in Kayden’s honor, as the Bucks County legislators have been working closely with members of her family in creating the legislation to prevent other families from experiencing the same horrific loss.

Kayden’s Law will provide children in the family court system with greater legal protections by adding to the evidence judges must consider in making custody and visitation decisions, establishing an evidentiary hearing to thoroughly vet allegations of abuse, and urging the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts to implement an ongoing, evidence-based training program for judges and other relevant court personnel regarding child abuse and domestic violence, which is crucial for those whose decision-making affects potentially life and death scenarios every day.

“It is our greatest responsibility as legislators to protect the health and well-being of our children,” said Sen. Santarsiero. “Right now, Pennsylvania is not doing enough to ensure that children going through custody proceedings in our family courts are protected. Parental rights should not outweigh the safety of the children involved, especially in cases where evidence of abuse or unstable behavior are so prevalent.”

“As a lawmaker, I am deeply concerned by how the courts are failing our children by ignoring warning signs and, as a result, putting them in harm’s way,” said Rep. Davis. “We are long overdue for serious reforms to the current system and this legislation takes a big step toward addressing these issues and, hopefully, will save lives.”

“Kayden’s family’s remarkable courage, persistence…and love has led to the introduction of Kayden’s Law, which will ensure that the health and safety of the child is the first priority in custody proceedings,” said Rep. Warren.

The legislators were joined on the press call by members of Kayden’s family who have been vocal advocates for stronger protections for children involved in domestic custody disputes.

Following Kayden’s death, the family launched Kayden’s Korner in her memory, with the mission “to affect judicial reform of the family court system through the education of government to the signs of domestic abuse, shine a light on the impact of mental illness and lobby government to make the health and safety of children the singular concern of the court system.”

“It’s so encouraging to have this support. I think we all realize going forward that there’s much, much more to do,” said Thomas Giglio, Kayden’s maternal grandfather.

“I want to thank Senator Santarsiero, Representative Warren, and Representative Davis. We wouldn’t be here without you,” said Brian Sherlock, Kayden’s stepfather. “Everything we do here is bittersweet. I wish we didn’t have to be here. We won’t stop until this becomes law here in Pennsylvania and across the country. I think that if this bill was in place last August, Kayden would still be here.”

To further address the issue of child custody in Pennsylvania, the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, co-chaired by Senator Santarsiero, will be holding a policy hearing on Thursday, October 17. The hearing will focus on SB 868, with an agenda forthcoming.

The hearing will begin at 11 a.m. and conclude at 1 p.m. at the Lower Makefield Township Community Center, 1550 Oxford Valley Road, in Lower Makefield (Yardley). The meeting is open to the public.

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