According to statistics, more than 1,500 U.S. children die from abuse or neglect each year.

Pennsylvania in recent years has seen a string of cases regarding children dying of starvation and abuse. After Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant coach, was arrested on child molestation charges, a legislative task force was established and one of its first recommendations was to expand the 21 regional child advocacy centers operating in the state.

Unfortunately, far too many lower profile cases occur daily. In Philadelphia last November, a 6-year-old boy was beaten and starved to death in what a prosecutor called "a crime against humanity" and "the prolonged torture of a child."

The victim, Khalil Wimes, one of 11 children born to Tina Cuffie of Philadelphia, weighed just 29 pounds when he died. The older children testified that Tina Cuffie and Latiff Hadi, formerly Floyd Wimes, locked Khalil in his room without food. He was also beaten for not calling Cuffie "mother," or for his frequent vomiting; and was forced to run laps as punishment, even the day before he died.

The mother of one distant cousin, who first raised Khalil, called the boy "a sacrificial lamb" in a system that "was well aware of the history of these two people." A city social worker was reportedly aware and voiced concerns, but took no action.

Sadly, Khalil, who had been voluntarily surrendered to protective custody, was allowed to return home because the parents had been off drugs, had an apartment and had completed a parenting class. The parents were sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.

Last week, Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation designed to help children like Khalil from abuse. The law, which takes effect on July 1, doubles the fee for duplicate birth certificates from $10 to $20, which would raise nearly $4 million a year.

The main bill is expected to provide nearly $3 million to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency as grant money for child-advocacy centers and multidisciplinary investigative teams, and $1 million for the Department of Public Welfare to use to train doctors, teachers and other professionals who are required by law to report suspected abuse.

Another bill signed into law establishes a statewide electronic database in which law-enforcement and county agencies can share information about suspected child abuse.

In announcing the new measures, Corbett said it was "a bright future for the children of Pennsylvania."

Before they attempt to victimize innocent children, those brutish adults need to know that their punishment will be severe.

By Jim Zbick

editor@tnonline.com