Dynamic and Important Workshop About Troubling Topic
If you missed this morning’s workshop entitled: “Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse”, you missed another winner.
Mandy Mundy, the Director of Education and Training at Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) provided a highly energetic presentation to a full house of mental health professionals, educators, nurses and others.
The four Goals of this Workshop included:
- Know and understand the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters under Pennsylvania law.
- Recognize the possible indicators of child abuse
- Know how to make a report of suspected child abuse and neglect with confidence.
- Develop increased understanding of the complexity of responding to child abuse and neglect by learning of possible outcomes when abuse/neglect is reported and the social, emotional and health impact of child abuse.
Mandy began the presentation by clarifying some questions that were presented to FCP, prior to the workshop. PA Act 31 of 2014 requires that mandated reporters include all licensed professionals among the 29 Pennsylvania licensing boards receive this training prior to license renewal. She also provided an extensive list of others, who routinely work with children, who may also require this training. This list includes, but is not limited to, volunteers working with children, all school personnel, independent contractors working in facilities that provide services to children, clergy, law enforcement, EMT’s, library employees, attorneys, foster parents etc. She discussed the difference between “Mandated” and “Permissive” reporters. Mandated reporters are required to report suspicion of child abuse. Permissive reporters may report suspicion of child abuse. She provided the guidelines for making a report.
Mandy gave an interesting timeline of the US and PA history of child protective services law which began in 1912. As a sidenote, she said that animal protection laws began with the ASPCA in 1866. Animals were given legal protection in the US about 46 years before children. She explained the changes in the law, and the reasons for these changes. Although she made it clear that she is not a representative of Children and Youth in Bucks County, Mandy was able to describe the three services that now work together protect children. These include Child Protection Services (CPS), General Protective Services (GPS), and law enforcement.
This presentation defined the difference between a “perpetrator”, and an “offender,” and provided a discussion of the age of the child, and age differences between the child and the “perpetrator” or “offender” required to meet the definition of child abuse. There was an audible “gasp” from the audience, when Mandy pointed out that a 13 year old may legally consent to sexual activity with a similar age peer. There was another audible response when she said that the “perpetrator” or “offender” of abuse may be younger than the victim. Mandy also said that the law requires a four year difference in age for sexual intercourse, once the youth becomes 16. More than the four year difference is reportable child abuse, even if permitted by the parent (e.g. 14 and 19). She suggested that all mandated reporters review www.dhs.state.pa.us/forchildren/keepkidssafepa/index.htm for clarification about this topic.
During her presentation, Mandy discussed the signs and symptoms of the types of child abuse. She said that these symptoms are “red-flags” that may cause an adult to ask further questions of the child, perhaps leading to a report. These symptoms may also be present with many other conditions for the child, and may not be related to child abuse.
She also said that the mandate for child abuse reporting ends when the child reaches age 18. The exception is if the child is still in high-school until age 21. If the child has not graduated from high school, school personnel are required to report suspected child abuse until the child “ages-out” usually at age 21. Non-school mental health professionals or other service providers are not mandated reporters once the child reaches age 18. They are then considered adults.
Mandy did a nice, but brief, job of presenting therapeutic interaction with a child who is disclosing or presenting symptoms of child-abuse. She mentioned the importance of reporting first, and limiting the “internal” investigation or questions to avoid “tainting” the victims responses. Under confidentiality, mandated reporting “trumps” ethics” rules of most professions in Pennsylvania. Physicians, Psychologists, Social Workers, Counselors etc are required to report suspected child abuse, despite the ethics requirement of the profession. Mandy said that there are two exceptions to the new child-abuse reporting law.
- Clergy –during a sealed confessional, or seeking spiritual counseling.
- A private Attorney, in discussion with a child, but not working for an agency to represent the child.
Again, Mandy suggested that the mandated reporter visit www.dhs.state.pa.us/forchildren/keepkidssafepa/index.htm for clarification.
There are “Large Teeth” to enforce implementation of this law in Pennsylvania. Mandy suggested that mandated reporters “err” on the side of protecting the child. Serious legal charges and fines/incarceration may occur if a mandated reporter fails to report.
The Bottom Line = When in doubt, report.
Reporters are protected from prosecution, even if the report is unfounded. Vindictive or frivolous reporting can be prosecuted.
The 3 hours went by very quickly. As usual, I am concerned, when a presenter permits participants to interrupt them with any questions at any time. Often, they run out of time and there is a “crunch” at the end. Only the most experienced and expert presenters can pull this off. Mandy is one of those. This worked, this time. There were many questions. They were relevant, and interesting to most participants. Mandy answered each question completely and succinctly. She repeated the questions for all participants to hear. She was able to complete her goals within the 3 hours allowed. The attentive and eager audience appeared very satisfied, but still wanted more. I heard only positive comments during the break. More than one professional said something like, “Wow! She really knows this stuff!”
Although this workshop is necessary to renew licenses for professionals in 29 Pennsylvania licensing Boards, today’s presentation is valuable above and beyond the requirement. Thank you Mandy, for making this very serious topic, interesting, and a good learning experience. Perhaps it’s your early elementary school training that kept some of us on track? It worked! Overall, I thought this was an important and informative workshop!
What did you think?