Every family that finds itself in dependency court is there for a reason, but every situation is a confluence of unique factors.
Some children have parents struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some families are beset by health problems or are struggling to make ends meet. Others include grandparents who have suddenly found themselves responsible for the welfare of a child.
The professionals who work with these families play an important role in the system, and their work is a vital factor in finding positive outcomes for Pennsylvania's children. It is key that problems in a family are diagnosed as quickly as possible, and often system professionals are the first to realize when things start to go wrong. In fact, if you are a professional who falls under the category of a "Mandated Reporter," reporting a potential problem is not only a good idea, it is your responsibility.
Mandated reporters are required to report if they have reason to suspect on the basis of their training and experience that a child coming before them is an abused child. Persons are mandated if they come into contact with children in the course of their employment, occupation or practice of their profession.
Mandated Reporters include, but are not limited to:
- Licensed physicians
- Licensed practical nurses
- Hospital personnel
- Medical examiners
- Christian Science practitioners
- Clergy members
- Funeral directors
- School administrators, teachers, nurses
- Social services workers (including child welfare staff)
- Day care center workers
- Other child care or foster care workers
- Mental health professionals
- Peace officers
- Law enforcement officials
- Registered nurses
The CPSL allows for the delegation of the duty to report. In other words, when the mandated reporter is a member of an institution, such as a school, they report to the person in charge or his or her designee.
There is confidentiality protection for those who report. However, their names will be given to law enforcement if the report meets the criteria for referral. Law enforcement is supposed to treat them as confidential informants.
Reporters of abuse have immunity from liability. The law assumes that the reports are being made in good faith. The greater problem arises in failing to report abuse. If a mandated reporter willfully fails to report abuse, they can be charged with a summary offense for the first violation and a misdemeanor of the third degree for a second or subsequent violation. They may also face a potential liability suit.
For information on how to report suspected abuse, contact the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare.