Child abuse is a serious problem that requires action from everyone. It does not discriminate – child abuse is an urban problem and a rural problem. It is a problem of families in poverty as well as in affluence. It cuts across racial, ethnic and religious lines. Child welfare professionals work diligently to protect kids and provide services to help parents and caregivers nurture and care for their children. But the problem is too big for any one entity to solve. We all need to get involved.
While everyone has a responsibility to look out for kids, and anyone may make a report of suspected child abuse, some people are required to report suspected child abuse as a condition of their employment or other circumstances. They are called mandated reporters. Simply stated, if you work with children, volunteer in a program where you are responsible for children, or have a certain kind of professional license, you are a mandated reporter. Mandated reporters are held to a higher standard of responsibility than members of the general public who are not required to report suspected abuse.
Pennsylvania has a hotline for reporting child abuse, ChildLine, which accepts calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ChildLine staff are trained to accept calls, ask the caller specific questions about the suspected abuse, record the information given and contact the Children and Youth agency (called Children, Youth and Families or Department of Human Services in some counties) in the county where the alleged abuse occurred. The county agency then investigates the report and decides what course of action will be best for the children. Even if there is no abuse occurring, the county agency can offer many kinds of help to families to prevent abuse in the future and to make sure children remain in a safe environment.
CHILDREN’S ADVOCACY CENTERS
Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) and Multidisciplinary Teams are an important resource for helping children who are suspected to have been abused. They are child-focused, facility-based programs in which representatives from many disciplines work together as a team to conduct interviews and collaborate on cases of suspected child abuse. The CAC model brings together trained professionals to investigate and provide medical and mental health care, as well as support to child victims of abuse, while holding alleged perpetrators accountable through the court system. CAC programs are child-focused, developmentally sensitive, and designed to create a sense of safety and security for child victims.
Many communities have programs and services to help families in many ways. These include parent education classes and support groups; child care and after school programs; respite services; and in-home visitation and services for special needs populations such as incarcerated parents. PFSA works with a network of local organizations who support families and protect children. Find local programs
Law enforcement agencies respond to emergency child welfare situations and often work with county child welfare agencies. Most law enforcement agencies have staff that are specially trained to investigate criminal offenses involving child abuse. You can locate your nearest Pennsylvania State police station online.
Information on your local or regional police department can be found in your telephone directory or by contacting your county courthouse.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General is the top law enforcement officer for the state; child protection is an important responsibility. Find out more about the Attorney General’s office.
District Attorneys in each county represent the government in prosecuting suspected perpetrators of child abuse. Contact your county courthouse to find the District Attorney’s office.