Pennsylvania’s Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse Requirements
The Child Protective Services Law (Title 23, Chapter 63) provides for the mandatory reporting of child abuse in Pennsylvania. Mandatory reporting provisions were broadened and the grading for failure to report was increased by Act 179 of 2006.
What should someone do if they suspect child abuse?
Call ChildLine 1-800-932-0313.
This is the Department of Public Welfare’s child abuse reporting hotline. DPW can refer the report to the proper county Children and Youth Agency for investigation or to law enforcement, if necessary.
Any person may report child abuse, even if they are not required to do so by law. To encourage reporting, Pennsylvania law provides immunity from civil and criminal liability for persons who make a report in good faith.
How is child abuse defined in Pennsylvania law?
(a) Any recent act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes nonaccidental serious physical injury to a child under 18 years of age.
(b) An act or failure to act by a perpetrator which causes nonaccidental serious mental injury to or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years of age.
(c) Any recent act, failure to act or series of such acts or failures to act by a perpetrator which creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury to or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation of a child under 18 years of age.
(d) Serious physical neglect by a perpetrator constituting prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide essentials of life, including adequate medical care, which endangers a child's life or development or impairs the child's functioning.
Exceptions exist for environmental factors that are beyond the control of the parent (access to adequate housing, medical care, etc.), and failure to provide medical treatment as the result of a deeply held religious belief that is part of a bona fide religion (although, the county Children and Youth Agency can monitor and obtain court-ordered intervention if the child’s life or long-term health is jeopardized).
Who is required to report suspected child abuse?
Any person who, in the course of employment, occupation or practice of a profession, comes into contact with children is required to report, if they have cause to suspect, on the basis of medical professional or other training and experience, that a child under the care supervision, guidance or training of that person or of an agency, institution, organization or other entity with which that person is affiliated is a victim of child abuse. Prior to Act 179 of 2006, a person was only required to report if the child suspected of being abused came before them in their official capacity.
The law also provides a non-exclusive list of professions that are required to report suspected child abuse (doctors, dentists, teachers, school administrators, nurses, social workers, clergy, law enforcement, mental health workers, etc.).
A person required to report, who is part of a medical or other public or private institution, school facility or agency is required to notify the person in charge of their organization, or their designee. Upon notification, the person in charge or the designee is required to report and assumes responsibility for the failure to do so.
If a mandated reporter is discharged from employment or otherwise discriminated against with regard to their employment as the result of making a child abuse report, the person may file an action in the Court of Common Pleas for the appropriate relief.
What is the procedure for mandated reporters to report suspected child abuse?
A mandated reporter who suspects child abuse should contact DPW (ChildLine) by phone immediately. Within 48 hours of making the oral report, the person should submit a written report the appropriate county Children and Youth Agency. However, the failure to submit a written report does not relieve DPW or the county agency of the responsibility to investigate.
What is the penalty for failing to report child abuse?
A mandated reporter who willfully fails to report child abuse is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree (up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $2,500 fine) for the first offense and a misdemeanor of the second degree (up to 2 years in jail and/or up to $5,000 fine) for the second and subsequent offenses. Prior to Act 179 of 2006, willful failure to report was a summary offense (up to 90 days in jail and/or up to $300 fine) for the first offense and a misdemeanor of the third degree for the second and subsequent offenses.