"You'll have huge numbers of families drawn into the criminal justice system," said Kelley, a Democrat. "When we criminalize these parents ... all we do is make it harder for them to bond with these children."
Kelley argued that at the end of the day, the children will likely end up with the parents and the state would be better served by educating the adults.
But JPR Chairman Brian Frosh said the proposed rule cures a loophole in current law: Child abuse cases must demonstrate physical harm to the victim. More subtle forms of abuse, like intentional malnutrition or locking a child in a closet for a prolong period, would not necessarily trigger the existing abuse statutes, he said.
"Some of this outrageous behavior can not be charged," said Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat.
The bill received preliminary approval in the Senate and House this morning.