Recognizing Child Abuse
Pennsylvania's Child Protective Service Law defines abuse as non-accidental serious physical or mental injury, sexual abuse or exploitation, or serious physical neglect caused by the acts or missions of the parent or caretaker.
Reporting Child Abuse
If you think a child has been abused, 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.
Helpful Information When Making A Report:
- Name and physical description of the child
- Age or approximate age range of the child
- Name home address and telephone number of legal guardian or parent of the child
- Name or physical description of suspected child abuser
- Home address and telephone number of suspected child abuser
- Suspected abuser's relationship to the child
- Description of the suspected injury to the child
- Where the incident took place or occurred
- Any concern for the child's immediate safety
- Your relationship to the child
- You may report anonymously, however it is helpful to have your contact information if additional information is needed.
Mandated reporters are required by law to report suspected child abuse immediately to Pennsylvania's Childline based on their medical or professional training or other experience. They must also make a written follow up report to the investigating County Children and Youth Agency within 48 hours.
Mandated reporters include: doctors, nurses, other hospital personnel, dentists, psychiatrists, psychologists, public health department personnel, police officers, sheriffs, county detectives, court officials, social services workers, child care workers, clergy, teachers, principals, school nurses, school counselors, school administration, and anyone who as part of his or her job has contact with children.
General Intake Services
The General Intake Units provide initial assessment and screening of all allegations of inadequate or improper care of children (other than abuse) as well as requests for assistance from families or children.
Workers in these units handle all incoming referrals received by telephone, mail, facsimiles, office visits, and/or reports from the standby duty workers. Referrals can come from anyone: professionals, family members, or the community in general.
All incoming referrals are screened according to the State's Risk Assessment tool. If a referral is deemed appropriate for response, the worker must initiate contact either immediately, within 24 hours, 5 days, or no more than 10 days, depending on the initial assessed risk to the child. Workers then have 60 days to decide whether to close at the intake level, assign to protective services, assign to intensive services, or petition the court for protective supervision or out-of-home placement. A Safety Assessment is also completed following the initial visit with the family and is updated as needed.
The Agency is mandated to receive referrals on a 24 hour, 7 days a week basis. Standby Duty provides emergency coverage during night and weekend hours through the Agency's phone number with the assistance of the Medical Bureau, cellular phones and laptop computers. Agency master files, case assignments and some additional case information can be accessed by the worker.
Standby/emergency duty workers respond to any and all emergencies that arise during the night and weekend and provide reports on their activities via computer to be available immediately when the Agency opens for business.
Child Protective Services Intake
The County Agency is the sole civil agency responsible to investigate reports of suspected child abuse. Child Protective Services Intake functions and responsibilities are aligned with the implementation of the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law and Regulations, and Juvenile Act.
The unit maintains a call schedule with rotating coverage responsibilities. The on-call caseworker is responsible for receiving incoming referral regarding allegations of child abuse involving physical, sexual, serious physical neglect, mental injury, and imminent risk, which are registered with the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Hotline. Upon gathering information, and conducting record checks for previous Agency involvement, an investigation to determine whether a child is at significant risk and determine the best methods of assuring the child's safety is initiated. The level of risk to the child is the defining criteria for CPS involvement, which can range from information and referral to community resources, assignment to in-home services, to removal through court intervention.
Joint Investigative Team
In 1999, Dauphin County Social Services for Children and Youth was instrumental in receiving a Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) grant to fund a training program at the Children's Resource Center (CRC) to train law enforcement officers and CPS personnel in the ways to reduce the number of interviews in child abuse cases and to work cooperatively as a team.
This Dauphin County Joint Investigative Team training was provided on seven different dates between November 1999 through January 2000. This training and subsequent meetings has greatly enhanced working and investigative relationships among the professionals on the team and the various agencies they represent.
The team is comprised of the following members:
- The Children's Resource Center
- Dauphin County District Attorney's Office
- Dauphin County Social Services for Children and Youth
- Local and State Police Officers
- Dauphin County Mental Health/Mental Retardation
- Dauphin County Victim/Witness Assistance Program
- YWCA of Greater Harrisburg
Various members of this team come together on each case referred to the Children's Resource Center in order for a comprehensive investigation to be completed with as little trauma to the child as possible.