Recent Changes to the Child Protective Services Law
The following excerpt is from the Pennsylvania Family Services Alliances (PFSA) Newsletter – Summer 2014, and is reprinted in its entirety with the permission of the Pennsylvania Family Services Alliance.
CPSL Changes Impact Mandated Reporters Recent amendments to PA’s Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) will impact mandated reporters. Most of the changes do not take effect until December 31, 2014. The change with the greatest impact for those who are required to report suspected child abuse is the change in the reporting process. Policies that require a report to be made to the person in charge, who then makes the call ChildLine, will no longer be an option. Here are some of the other changes relevant to mandated reporters:
Perpetrators The list of perpetrators will include more relatives, including great uncles/aunts and great grandparents. Mandated reporters should make a report regardless of whether the relative is in a caretaker role. School employees and school contractors will fall under person responsible for the child’s welfare; student abuse will no longer exist. Abuse of students by school personnel will now fall under child abuse.
Mandated Reporters More clarity is provided under the new amendments; for example staff from colleges and universities, EMS, and public librarians with direct contact with children will be added to the list of reporters. An attorney who works for an agency that is responsible for children, including schools and religious organizations, is a mandated reporter. Individuals (paid or unpaid) who accept responsibility for a child in a program, activity or service will be considered mandated reporters. This includes volunteers.
Making a Report In addition to the change in reporting policies, mandated reporters are required to report specific disclosures made to them about a child who can be identified, regardless if the child is under the care supervision, guidance or training of the mandated reporter. If a perpetrator age 14 years or older discloses abuse of a child, the mandated reporter will be required to report. Under current law this would not be a mandated report.
Serious Physical Injury and Serious Mental Injury The threshold for substantiating Serious Physical Injury is lowered from “severe pain” to “substantial pain.” Likewise, the threshold for substantiating Serious Mental Injury is lowered to “significantly contributing to the serious mental injury” from “causing the serious mental injury.”
Sexual Abuse The definition of sexual abuse is amended so that consensual sexual activity between a teen 14 years or older and another who is 14 or older but within four years of an age that is not sexual abuse. If there is any indication of an imbalance of power or that a crime had occurred, this could be considered child abuse and should be reported.
Protections for Mandated Reporters Mandated reporters will be immune from liability when making General Protective Services reports. Protection from civil and criminal liability remains when making a report of suspected child abuse.
Liability for Failure to Report These penalties will increase. First failure to report will be increased to a second degree misdemeanor. If the abuse against the child is a felony and/or the abuse continues, the higher penalty for failure to report is up to a first degree felony. This change is effective June 13, 2014.
For more information on the changes to the Child Protective Services Law, please visit the website at www.pa-fsa.org.