Over the last decade, Pennsylvania residents learned of multiple incidences of child abuse by trusted members of the public. First, a grand jury investigation uncovered widespread child sexual abuse and a subsequent cover-up within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Then in 2012 Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, was convicted of more than 40 counts of child sexual abuse. These abuse cases shocked the public and government and public health officials moved quickly to review and update child abuse recognition and reporting laws in Pennsylvania.
The new laws, which went into effect on December 31, 2014, resulted in sweeping changes and updates to child abuse laws in Pennsylvania. The new laws clarified the rules for mandated reporting, revised the definition of child abuse, updated and expanded definitions for perpetrator and mandatory reporter, added child labor and sex trafficking to its definition of child abuse, and streamlined the reporting process.
The goal of the new laws is to improve recognition of child abuse and provide an understanding that, if you suspect child abuse is occurring, the most important action you can take is to report the suspected abuse to ChildLine and allow trained public health officials to determine further action.
Child abuse can be stopped. To do so requires determination, education, community support, and strategies that support the development of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships.