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In the state of Pennsylvania, when a mandated reporter has a reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been the victim of child abuse, a report must be made immediately regardless of if the case of suspected child abuse will fall as a child protective services case or a general protective services case. Mandated reporters are able to make their report of suspected child abuse in one of two ways, either by calling the ChildLine hotline, which is available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, or by submitting the report electronically instead of calling ChildLine. If a mandated reporter chooses to make their report through calling ChildLine, then the mandated reporter must provide their name and contact information as well as providing an electronic report or a written report completed on the CY-47 form within 48 hours of making the oral report to ChildLine .
If a mandated reporter, or anyone else who is not a mandated reporter, makes a written report of suspected child abuse, the following list of information must be including within the report :
• The names and addresses of the child and the parents or other person responsible for the care of the child if it is known.
If a person who makes a report of suspected child abuse fails to confirm an oral report with a written report within 48 hours of making the oral report, the county agency is not relieved of any duties. In the case of this scenario, the county agency will proceed with the investigation as if a written report were actually made .
A mandated reporter who has a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse has to consider and follow several steps in order to ensure that the reporting process is followed. If there is a suspicion that the child is in immediate danger, then the mandated reporter should follow an emergency intervention, which includes placing a call to 911 immediately.
3. c. i. MANDATED REPORTERS ROLE RELATED TO REASONABLE CAUSE TO SUSPECT vs. CONDUCTING AN INVESTIGATION
All a mandated reporter needs to have is a suspicion or a reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been the victim of child abuse. The mandated reporter does not need to be absolutely certain that child abuse has actually taken place prior to making the report of suspected child abuse. It is also not the responsibility of the mandated reporter to begin an investigation into the suspicion of child abuse, which should be left to the agency that investigates child abuse cases. After a report of suspected child abuse has been made, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and the children and youth agency will then determine whether the report needs further investigation .
There are many requirements, definitions, and signs of child abuse that a mandated reporter could see at any time and it is important for those who are mandated reporters to have a full understanding of all of these. In the case that a mandated reporter encounters what turns out to be a difficult case or a case that could be considered borderline, it is imperative that mandated reporters know and understand that they are to report all suspected child abuse immediately and the staff at ChildLine will determine if the case is classified as CPS or GPS.
However, it is important to remember that the Child Protective Services Law states that a mandated reporter must make an immediate report and does not allow the mandated reporter a delay for a consultation or for further investigation into the suspected child abuse. The CPSL’s low threshold for evidence (i.e. a reasonable suspicion that child abuse may have occurred) combined with Pennsylvania’s mandatory training of licensed and other professionals who work in child-service organizations and institutions, together limit the need for the delay in reporting suspected child abuse.
When a report of suspected child abuse has been reported, it is critical that appropriate and accurate written records are always maintained. These records allow the child abuse investigator and agency to have a clear understanding of the situation that has been reported. There is no guarantee that the report of suspected child abuse will be read immediately after the report has been made, therefore, it is important that every report contain basic information, such as a brief history, what the presentation was of the suspected child abuse, the general situation of what had occurred, the circumstances that were presented at the time, and the final action that was taken .
3. c. ii. REPORTING WITHOUT HAVING TO DETERMINE THE RELATIONSHIP OF THE PERPETRATOR TO THE VICTIM CHILD
A mandated reporter is required by the Pennsylvania Law to make a report of suspected child abuse immediately. It does not require the mandated reported to know or make a determination of the relationship of the perpetrator to the child in order to make the report of suspected child abuse.
3. c. iii. STREAMLINING OF THE REPORTING PROCESS
Mandated reporters have access to not only the ChildLine hotline to make reports of suspected child abuse, but mandated reporters are also now able to make a report of suspected child abuse online to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services through the Child Welfare Portal.
3. c. iii. 1. DIRECT REPORTS BY THE PERSON WHO SUSPECTS
A mandated reporter who has a suspicion or a reasonable cause to suspect child abuse should make the report directly to the ChildLine, previously known as the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. A report can be made directly through the use of the ChildLine and Abuse Registry toll-free telephone number, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or through the Child Welfare Portal. Whether the report is made through the ChildLine and Abuse Registry or through the Child Welfare Portal, it will then be sent to the appropriate county or law enforcement agency to take further action .
3. c. iii. 2. REPORT IMMEDIATELY
A report of suspected child abuse that is made by a mandated reporter should be made immediately, with no delay for the mandated reporter to attempt to begin an investigation into the report of suspected child abuse as stated in a previous section. An oral report of child abuse can be made immediately to the ChildLine and Abuse Registry, while an electronic report of child abuse can be made through the Child Welfare Portal.
If the mandated reporter decides to make an oral report of suspected child abuse to the ChildLine and Abuse Registry, then they are required to submit a written report of the suspected child abuse electronically within 48 hours to the appropriate department or county agency who was assigned to the case. This follow-up report should be made within the manner and format that is stated by the appropriate department who took the case.
If a mandated reporter fails to submit a follow-up written report to the oral report made of suspected child abuse within 48 hours, the county agency or department who received the case should continue to proceed with the assessment and investigation as if the follow-up report had been made by the mandated reporter .
A mandated reporter must fill out and submit a form known as a Report of Suspected Child Abuse, otherwise known as the CY-47 form, within 48 hours of making a report of suspected child abuse to the ChildLine and Abuse Registry. This form is not able to be submitted electronically. It may be obtained from a county’s child and youth agency or from the ChildLine and Abuse Registry website and it must be faxed or mailed directly to the children and youth agency that is investigating the case.
Although there will be times when a mandated reporter does not know or will not have sufficient information to completely fill out the form, they need to fill out as much of the form as possible and provide all of the information that they have and to the best of their ability. Some of the information that is needed on the CY-47 form includes :
• The name, address, and present location of the child;
3. c. iii. 3. ELECTRONIC SUBMISSION OF REPORTS BY MANDATED REPORTERS
If a mandated reporter decides to submit a report of suspected child abuse electronically, they are able to do this by visiting the Child Welfare Information Solution portal and will be able to submit their report to ChildLine directly. The report of suspected child abuse filled out by the mandated reporter must include their name, telephone number, and email address, as well as any other actions that you have taken, such as those listed in a previous section discussing mandated reporters. The mandated reporter will receive an email confirmation stating that the report has been received by ChildLine, the mandated reporter should print and keep this email confirmation .
After a mandated reporter submits their report of suspected child abuse to ChildLine electronically, they then must tell the person who is in charge of the organization or program, for example, a school principle or the director of a child care program. That individual who is in charge then becomes responsible for facilitating the organization’s cooperation with any investigation that follows as well as assisting the mandated reporter with any additional concerns that they may have .
At this time in Pennsylvania, only those individuals who are mandated reporters are able to make a report of suspected child abuse electronically. However, everyone is still encouraged to make a report if they have any suspicions or reasonable cause that a child is a victim of child abuse. The ChildLine hotline is available for anyone to make a report of suspected child abuse .
3. c. iv. REPORTING SCENARIOS vs. TO WHOM AND HOW QUICKLY REPORTS ARE MADE
The ChildLine and Abuse Registry have specialists that interview the caller who is making the report of suspected child abuse in order to determine what the next step should be, this includes making the determination of whether the report of suspected child abuse will be forwarded to a county agency for investigation as a child protective services case or a general protective services case, if the report should be forwarded directly to a law enforcement official, or if the caller who is making the report should be referred to local services.
If it is determined that the case should be handled as a CPS or a GPS case, then ChildLine will contact the appropriate county agency immediately. The county agency then becomes the responsible party for the investigation into the report of suspected child abuse, completing the "risk assessment" as well as a "safety assessment".
If a report is determined to be handled as a child protective services case, the appropriate agency will see and evaluate the child within 24 hours of receiving the report. The primary goal of this investigation by the CPS agency is to determine the nature and extent of the child abuse reported, to evaluate the level of risk or harm to the child if that child were to stay in their current living situation, and to determine whether there are any actions that need to be taken in order to ensure the safety of the child. If needed, photographs may be taken of the child and the child’s injuries to place in the file.
If the report of child abuse is determined to be a general protective services case, then an assessment will be conducted to see if there are any further needs and if needed, appropriate referrals for services can be made for the child and the family. Regardless of which agency handles the report of suspected child abuse, all investigations into suspected child abuse must be completed within 30 days of the report being taken at ChildLine.
Basis to report
3. c. v. WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A REPORT IS MADE
After a mandated reporter makes a report of suspected child abuse, ChildLine will forward the report to the appropriate County Children and Youth Agency who will begin to investigate the circumstances that were stated within the report. The County Children and Youth Agency may then contact the mandated reporter if they need any additional information or if they have any additional questions.
The County Children and Youth Agency who received the report of suspected child abuse will conduct a safety and risk assessment and will proceed with any action that they deem necessary in order to ensure the safety of the children involved. Oftentimes, services are offered to families even if there is no abuse present in order to help prevent future abuse to the children from occurring.
With the recent amendments made to the Child Protective Services Law, mandated reporters will receive the results of the investigation into the report of suspected child abuse within a time period of three days of the conclusion of the investigation into the report. The mandated reporter will also be told of the final status of the case and any services that were provided by the County Children and Youth Agency to the child and/or family .
ChildLine receives the report and determines who is to respond to the report, dependent upon the information reported, such as the identity, if known, of the person who allegedly acted to abuse or harm a child.
3. d. PROTECTIONS FOR REPORTERS
In most cases of reports of suspected child abuse, the information contained within those reports is confidential with the exception of certain circumstances which are specified by the law. The identity of the person who makes the report of suspected child abuse or who cooperates with a subsequent investigation of child abuse remains confidential and cannot be released by the county agency. However, if the case of suspected child abuse must be reported to law enforcement officials by the county agency conducting the investigation, then the names of the individual(s) who made the report of child abuse or who cooperated in a subsequent investigation must be given to the law enforcement officials upon request. If this situation occurs, then the law enforcement officials must treat the individuals who cooperated in the investigation and the reporting sources as confidential informants .
According to the Pennsylvania law, all persons who have acted in good faith in making the report of suspected child abuse shall have immunity. Specifically, the law’s general rules for immunity from liability for making a report of suspected child abuse are as follows :
a) General rule – A person, hospital, institution, school, facility, agency or agency employee acting in good faith shall have immunity from civil and criminal liability that might otherwise result from any of the following:
The Pennsylvania law also specifies protection for those who make reports of suspected child abuse when it comes to employment discrimination :
a) Basis for relief – A person may commence an action for appropriate relief if all of the following apply:
3. e. PENALTIES FOR FAILURE TO REPORT
For those individuals who have a willful failure to report, otherwise known as having a reasonable suspicion of child abuse and deciding not to report it, they may be punished. Those penalties that individuals may face for failure to report have been increased under the new Child Protective Services Law amendments .
Under the Pennsylvania Law, those penalties for the failure to report a case of suspected child abuse are as follows :
a) Failure to report or refer –
3. f. MANDATED REPORTERS RIGHT-TO-KNOW
Under Title 23 Section 6368 of the Pennsylvania Code, a mandated reporter will be notified of two pieces of information that pertains to the outcome of the investigation into the report of child abuse. The department or agency shall provide the information regarding whether the report of child abuse was founded, indicated, or unfounded. An "indicated" report of child abuse reflects a determination that child abuse or neglect has occurred but has not led to any criminal charges but the perpetrators that are involved in the case are recorded within the ChildLine registry. A "founded" report reflects a determination to move the case over to the legal system for further judgement or a decision of the court which may or may not lead to criminal charges against the perpetrators. An "unfounded" report of suspected child abuse reflects a determination that the evidence that the department or agency collected failed to support a claim of child abuse.
The mandated reporter can also receive the information that pertains to if there were any services that were provided or arranged by the county agency or department who conducted the investigation in order to protect the child from child abuse in the future .
**** Training should emphasize that reports can be made immediately either orally to ChildLine (1-800-932-0313) or through the electronic submission through the Child Welfare portal at www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis. Oral reports are then required to be followed up within 48 hours with a written report that is sent to the investigating agency. The approved written form can be found at www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov . The form is under the forms tab (located on the left-hand side of the main page). The form is Report of Suspected Child Abuse (CY47). This is ONLY required if the report is completed orally and not done via electronic submission. If a reporter completes the electronic submission through the portal they have completed their mandated requirement without completing any other forms or notifications.
35. "Reporting Child Abuse." Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
36. "Mandated Reporter Frequently Asked Questions." Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.
37. Center, Legislative Data Processing. "Title 23." Pennsylvania General Assembly. The official website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly., 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
38. "Report of Suspected Child Abuse." Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. Dec. 2014. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
39. "Mandated Reporters FAQs." Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
40. "Protection for Mandated Reporters." Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
41. Center, Legislative Data Processing. "Title 23." Pennsylvania General Assembly. The official website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly., 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
42. Center, Legislative Data Processing. "Title 23." Pennsylvania General Assembly. The official website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly., 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
43. "Penalties for Willful Failure to Report." Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. 2016. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
44. Center, Legislative Data Processing. "Title 23." Pennsylvania General Assembly. The official website for the Pennsylvania General Assembly., 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 22 Nov. 2016.
45. "Child Abuse and Neglect: Risk and Protective Factors." CDC. CDC, 5 Apr. 2016. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.
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