On January 1, 2015, in an effort to protect children from child abuse, new child abuse reporting obligations came into effect in Pennsylvania. The new law is far reaching and effects many more individuals than the prior laws. Under the new law the following individuals, among others, are mandatory reporters of child abuse:
(1) a person licensed or certified to practice in any health-related field under the jurisdiction of the Department of State;
(2.) an employee of a health care facility or provider licensed by the Department of Health, who is engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of individuals;
(3.) school employees;
(4.) Child-care service employee who has direct contact with children in the course of employment;
(5.) leaders of any regularly established church or religious organization; (6.) individuals, paid or unpaid, who accepts responsibility for a child on the basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service; and
(7.) public library employees who have direct contact with children in the course of employment. The individuals encompassed by the category in number
(6.) are vast and include but are not limited to coaches, paid or volunteer, of sports teams both school and community based; girl and boy scout leaders; youth group program volunteers; and church nursery and bible school volunteers.
Mandatory reporters are required to make a report regarding suspicion of child abuse when they have reasonable cause to suspect’ that child abuse has been committed. “Reasonable cause to suspect’ exists in the following scenarios:
(1) a mandated reporter comes into contact with a child “through regularly scheduled program, activity or service’ and personally sees indicators of child abuse;
(2) a mandated reporter personally sees indicators of child abuse when the mandatory reporter is directly responsible for the “care, supervision, guidance, or training of the child” or is affiliated with an entity that is directly responsible for same; and
(3.) when a person (over the age of 14) makes a specific disclosure that a specific child is a victim of abuse to a mandatory reporter.
When a mandated reporter believes he/she has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is the victim of child abuse, a report must be made to the Department of Human Services (DHS), formerly the Department of Public Welfare, by either telephone or a written report via email or the DHS website. Within 48 hours of reporting to DHS, the mandatory reporter is required to file a written report to the children and youth agency in the county in which the alleged abuse occurred. Lastly, for those who are mandatory reporters through their employment or involvement (volunteers) at a school district, said reporters must notify the administrator of the school that a child abuse report has been made to DHS and the local children and youth agency.
Any mandatory reporter who fails to make a report commits either a second-degree misdemeanor or third-degree felony, depending on the situation. If you have any questions as to whether you qualify as a mandated reporter, or if you are aware you are a mandated reporter but are unsure as to whether your knowledge amounts to something that should be reported, please do not hesitate to contact our office.