In Pennsylvania, a mandated reporter is required to make a report to ChildLine when he or she has a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is the victim of child abuse or neglect. A permissive reporter is encouraged to report suspected child abuse but is not required to do so by law.
Pennsylvania enacted its first law mandating certain professionals to report suspected child abuse in 1963. Because some of the definitions within Pennsylvania law were unclear or required a high threshold to be considered child abuse, Pennsylvania’s child abuse reporting rates have historically been 9 to 10 times lower than the national average. The new child abuse laws addressed these issues by clarifying the definition of child abuse and lowering the threshold for mandated reporting.
Mandated reporters are certain adults who are required to make a report of suspected child abuse if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of abuse (PDHS, 2016). In general, any 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, is responsible for the child’s welfare or has direct contact with children is now considered a mandated reporter. Mandated reporters are required to report suspected child abuse if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse.
Mandated reporter must familiarize themselves with the following changes and clarifications to Pennsylvania child abuse law:
Another key change involves school employees—if you are a school employee and you suspect abuse has occurred, you are now required to call or electronically report to ChildLine directly and then notify someone in the school district of the report.
Under Pennsylvania law, the following adults are considered mandated reporters and are required to report suspected child abuse if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse:
In 2012 the Task Force on Child Protection recommended that attorneys be added to the list of persons required to report child abuse. Disagreement to the recommendation arose, partly related to the feeling that requiring attorneys to report child abuse would encroach on the Supreme Court’s authority to regulate the legal profession and affect attorney/client privilege (Thompson, 2014).
Eventually a compromise was reached and now an attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, organization or other entity, including a school or regularly established religious organization that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or control of children is a mandated reporter.
To address the issue of privileged and confidential communications, the following changes were made to statute § 6311.1, which also describes confidential communications with the clergy:
Child Protective Services Law defines permissive reporters—persons encouraged to report suspected child abuse—saying that any person may make an oral or written report of suspected child abuse. Although permissive reporters are encouraged to report suspected child abuse, they are not required to do so by law.
Permissive reporters can make a report at any time they suspect a child is the victim of child abuse and, as with mandated reporters, they do not have to determine whether the person meets the definition of perpetrator in order to make the report (KKSP, 2015c).
Permissive reporters can make a report to ChildLine by calling 800 932 0313, and there is nothing more for the reporter to do after making that report. The county children and youth agency must begin an investigation within 24 hours if the report is a Child Protective Services case.