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*.
- Any recent act or failure to act which causes non-accidental serious physical injury.
- An act or failure to act which causes non-accidental serious mental injury or sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.
- 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.
- Serious physical neglect which endangers a child’s life or development or impairs a child’s functioning.
- 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.
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.