Children & Youth Offices

Programs & Services

Reporting Child Abuse

Mandated Reporters

Types of Abuse

How to Report Child Abuse

Obtaining Clearances

How to Report -Reporting and Investigating Child Abuse

Act 127 of 1998 amended the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) with this purpose:

". . . to preserve, stabilize and protect the integrity of family life wherever appropriate or to provide another alternative permanent family when the unity of the family cannot be maintained."

The act also strengthened the CPSL by providing for more cooperation between county agencies and law enforcement officials when referring and investigating reports of suspected child abuse. Pennsylvania law defines child abuse as any of the following when committed upon a child under 18 years of age by a perpetrator*.

  1. Any recent act or failure to act which causes non-accidental serious physical injury.
  2. An act or failure to act which causes non-accidental serious mental injury or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.
  3. Any recent act, failure to act or series of such acts or failures to act which creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.
  4. Serious physical neglect which endangers a child’s life or development or impairs a child’s functioning.
The Department of Public Welfare’s (DPW) ChildLine and Abuse Registry (800-932-0313) is the central clearinghouse for all investigated reports. Professionals who come into contact with children are required to report when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child coming before them in their professional capacity is an abused child. In addition, any person may report suspected abuse, even if the individual wishes to remain anonymous.
The staff of the county agencies investigates reports of suspected abuse. When the alleged perpetrator is an agent or employee of the county children and youth agency, regional office staff from DPW’s Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF) conduct the investigation. The investigation must determine within 30 days whether the report is:
  • FOUNDED – there is a judicial adjudication that the child was abused;
  • INDICATED – county agency or regional staff find abuse has occurred based on medical evidence, the child protective service investigation or an admission by the perpetrator; or
  • UNFOUNDED – there is a lack of evidence that the child was abused.
"Founded" and "Indicated" reports of abuse will be referred to as "Substantiated" reports. Substantiated reports are kept on file at both ChildLine and the county agencies until the victim reaches 23 years of age. ChildLine keeps the perpetrator’s information on file indefinitely if the date of birth or social security number of the perpetrator is known. Act 127 of 1998 requires that unfounded reports be kept on file for one year from the date of the report and be destroyed within 120 days following the one-year period.
*A perpetrator is defined as a parent, paramour of a parent, individual (age 14 or older) residing in the same home as a child, or a person responsible for the welfare of a child, including a person who provides mental health diagnosis or treatment.

​Reporting Child Abuse

If you think a child has been abused:

  • Stay calm. Fear and anger are normal reactions, but they can frighten a child. Be sure not to blame, punish or embarrass the child.
  • Give emotional support. Tell the child that he or she is right to tell and is not to blame. Reassure the child that he or she is safe and that no harm will come from reporting the incident.
  • Believe the child, no matter how hard it may be. Never assume the child is making it up.
  • Get medical help. For the child who needs medical attention, call 911 or the County Children and Youth Agency.
  • Contact ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313. ChildLine is Pennsylvania’s toll-free number for reporting suspected child abuse. All reports are confidential and referred for investigation.


When making a report, it is helpful to have as much of the following information as possible without delaying the phone call:

  • About the child:
    • Name or physical description if the name is not known.
    • Age or approximate age range.
  • About the parent or legal guardian:
    • Name, home address and telephone number.
  • The suspected abuser:
    • Name or physical description or license plate number if the name is not known.
    • Home address and telephone number
    • Relationship to the child – whether the suspected abuser is a parent, neighbor, babysitter or teacher.
  • The type of abuse that is suspected:
    • A description of suspected injury or impairment of bodily function.
    • Where the incident took place and when it occurred.
    • Any concern for the child’s immediate safety.
  • The reporter:
    • What is your (the reporter’s) relationship with the child?
    • What actions have you taken – talking to the parent, reporting to the police, obtaining medical care for the child?
    • You may report an incident anonymously; however, it is helpful for the agency to be able to contact you for additional information if necessary.

You may be asked for additional information to help assess the urgency or seriousness of the situation. This information may include knowledge of substance abuse, domestic violence or other physical or behavioral concerns.