Reporting and Training Related to Suspected Child Abuse
Several provisions of the Child Protective Services Law were amended in 2014. The law now includes in the definition of mandated reporter an individual paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of the individual's role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child.
"Program, activity or service" is defined as a public or private educations, athletic, or other pursuit in which children participate. The term includes but is not limited to, the following:
(1) a youth camp or program; (2) a recreational camp or program; (3) a sports or athletic program; (4) an outreach program; (5) an enrichment program; and (6) a troop, club or similar organization.
Based on the foregoing provisions of the Child Protective Services Law, volunteers, whether paid or unpaid, are subject to the mandatory reporting procedure, if participating in a program, activity, or service as defined by the law. Mandated reporters are no longer permitted to report suspected child abuse to a supervisor. In accordance with the revised Child Protective Services Law, the mandated reporter shall report immediately in accordance with the requirements of the law and shall immediately thereafter notify the person in charge. Upon notification, the person is responsible for assisting with the investigation of the report. In a nutshell, the mandated reporter is now required to report suspected child abuse "out" to Childline, not report "up" to a supervisor.
The revised law also requires that "employees who have direct contact with children" have three hours of child abuse recognition and reporting training. The word "employee" defined by the law. "Direct contact with children" is defined as "the care, supervision, guidance or control of children or routine interaction with children".
While the law does not clearly require volunteers to participate in training, it is highly advisable that training be required for paid and unpaid volunteers who have direct contact with children during any program, activity or service. As mandated reporters, volunteers will learn how to recognize and report suspected child abuse through the training process. Training is imperative, as a willful failure to report suspected child abuse is a criminal violation. The mandated reporter may be charged with a misdemeanor of the third degree for the first violation and a misdemeanor of the second degree for a second or subsequent violation.
The information provided is intended to be a broad overview of 2014 revisions to the PA Child Protective Services Law regarding reporting suspected child abuse and training related to reporting. If you are interested in discussing your situation with a knowledgeable attorney, please feel free to contact me at 610-323-7464.