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The County Code, established in 1955, described the duties of the county in regards to children and youth. Providing child welfare services became the responsibility of the counties, and these services were designed to help children in their own homes . In 1967, Pennsylvania passed Act 91, which gave all public child welfare agencies in Pennsylvania counties the responsibility to investigate any child abuse reports made by physicians . Three years later, a modification to Act 91 additionally included school nurses and teachers as mandated reporters of child abuse . As of 2014, mandated reporters are still the highest reporters of suspected child abuse.
In 1975, Pennsylvania also became one of the first states to adopt a noncriminal approach to child abuse prevention with the enactment of the Child Protective Services Law. This law established an abuse hotline and a statewide central registry for children to encourage the reporting of suspected child abuse. The abuse hotline is run through the Department of Public Welfare ChildLine and Abuse Registry (1-800-932-0313), which is the center for all investigated reports . There were 29,273 suspected child abuse reports made through ChildLine in 2014, and 22,253 of those reports were made by mandated reporters. The Child Protective Services Law also established child protective service agencies in all Pennsylvania counties to investigate, and when necessary, to take immediate action in order to protect children of suspected abuse [1, 3]. In 1998, the Child Protective Services Law was amended and strengthened by Act 127, which provided increased cooperation between law enforcement officials and county agencies in regards to investigating child abuse reports .
The child welfare system in Pennsylvania is administered by the local counties. This means that although the system is supervised overall by the state, there are a total of 67 county agencies that oversee juvenile justice services and child welfare . Pennsylvania defines two functions for these agencies: general protective services (GPS) and child protective services (CPS). In addition to services to prevent direct child abuse, GPS covers any activities not covered by the Child Protective Services Law .
Being able to protect the children of Pennsylvania from the abuse and neglect of not only strangers, but by those who know or are related to the children, is a shared responsibility and requires the collaboration of everyone including the child protective services system, the community partners, and the citizens. It takes everyone to ensure that the children and their families who are facing challenges that are associated with child abuse and neglect have safety nets that they can depend upon for help .
The state of Pennsylvania recently enacted 24 pieces of legislation that will change how Pennsylvania will respond to child abuse. These changes will affect everything of how a report of child abuse is handled from reporting, the investigation, assessment, to the prosecution and judicial handling of child abuse and neglect cases .
These changes in Pennsylvania will :
• Strengthen the ability to better protect children from abuse and neglect by amending the definitions of what child abuse is and what a perpetrator is;
1. "DHS History." Philadelphia Department of Human Services. 2009. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
2. "Annual Child Abuse Report 2014." Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
3. Beaty PT, Woolley MR. Child molesters need not apply: a history of Pennsylvania's child protective services law and legislative efforts to prevent the hiring of abusers by child care agencies. Dickinson Law Review. 1985; 89(3):669-690.
4. "Annual Child Abuse Report 2013." Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
5. "What is child abuse in Pennsylvania?" The Protect Our Children Committee. n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.
6. "Home." Keep Kids Safe PA. n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2016.