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President Signs Gabbard’s Talia’s Law to Strengthen Protections for Military Children

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard released the statement below after “Talia’s Law” was signed into law by President Obama:

“More than a decade after Talia Williams’s tragic death, there have been more than 29,000 cases of child abuse and neglect in military homes. Until now, the same gaps in the military’s reporting requirements that failed to protect Talia and so many other military children remained. Enactment of Talia’s Law closes these gaps by requiring the same protections that exist for any other child to also protect children in military families. While this cannot right the wrongs that failed to protect Talia, Talia’s Law honors her life by helping to get military children, and their families, the support and care they need and deserve,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.

Tarshia Williams’s daughter Talia Williams in Orangeburg, South Carolina, United States. The acknowledged role of Delilah Williams in the abuse of her stepdaughter Talia Williams helped keep her husband Naeem Williams from receiving the death penalty after he was convicted of murdering his daughter.

“My daughter went through so much pain and agony and I am so proud that Talia’s Law will prevent other kids from experiencing what my daughter went through. I am thankful and honored that my daughter’s legacy will live on through Talia’s Law, and I am grateful for everyone who played a part in getting her law passed, moving one step forward to saving a child’s life,” said Tarshia W. Hampton, Talia Williams’ mother who wrote the original concept of Talia’s Law. Tarshia brought the concept to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard to introduce in Congress.

“Protection and early intervention can prevent situations like what Talia faced from happening again. By passing Talia’s Law, Child and Family Service (CFS) anticipates that all military personnel will become more empowered to follow all of the child welfare reporting mandates without fear of retaliation from their command, that child abuse and neglect will no longer be underreported, and that reporting will no longer be discouraged by the military’s chain of command,” said Amanda Pump, Program Administrator for Child & Family Service.

“Talia’s Law will create a further safety net to prevent a child from going through what happened to Talia. An issue of child abuse or neglect that goes unreported or underreported is a failure to allow for a child’s right to safety and a healthy childhood. Abuse of any household member is simply unacceptable. Talia’s Law will enforce early identification and response which is critical to the protection from further abuse. Thank you Congresswoman Gabbard for standing up for our children to assure that their safety and their basic needs are preserved,” said Ryan Kusumoto, President/CEO of Parents And Children Together.

Background: In 2005, five year old Talia Williams was beaten to death by her father, who was a soldier stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaiʻi. Leading up to her death, Talia suffered months of abuse from her father and stepmother. Despite multiple reports made to military officers, the case stayed within the military’s chain of command, and nothing was done to take Talia out of harm’s way.

Outside of the military, mandated reporters (generally, professionals that come into contact with children such as physicians, psychologists, social workers, teachers, and others) are required to report any suspected cases of child abuse and neglect directly to State Child Protective Services. However, the military’s reporting requirements do not currently require the same direct reporting requirements to state authorities.

To close the communications gap that may exist between mandated reporters and those who may report to the State on their behalf, Talia’s Law:

  • Requires servicemembers and their dependents to immediately report known or suspected instances of child abuse and neglect to their installation Family Advocacy Program Office. These offices are tasked with the prevention, education, intervention, and investigation of spouse and child abuse.
  • Additionally requires servicemembers and their dependents to report any known or suspected child abuse directly to State Child Protective Services, or another appropriate state agency.

In February, the House of Representatives unanimously passed Talia’s Law (H.R. 3894), introduced by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Mazie Hirono worked to include Talia’s Law in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed into law by President Obama on December 23.

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