If you missed this morning’s workshop entitled: “Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse:
What You Need to Know,” you missed another winner.
By popular request, Mandy Mundy M.S., NPL, Senior Director of Programs and Services at NOVA returned this year to provide a highly energetic presentation to a full house of mental health professionals, educators, and others. Although the workshop was a webinar format this year due to Covid-19, It seemed that Mandy was present in the room as she talked. That is a tribute to her presentation style and expertise on this topic.
At the end of this activity, the learner will be able to:
- List the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters under Pennsylvania law
- Name the possible indicators of child abuse
- Explain how to make a report of suspected child abuse and neglect
All of her goals were met. Mandy described the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters clearly. Her discussion included the life cycle of abuse stressing that sexual abuse often begins with “grooming” where the perpetrator develops an intimate relationship with a child leading to exploitation. Mandy also pointed out that the role of reporting goes beyond the professional relationship with the child. It extends to the community and day-to-day interaction. Mostly, the mandated reporter must observe children and their behavior and report a reasonable suspicion of child-abuse to child-line, as required by law. Mandy also said that the role of some mandated reporters is to work with the perpetrators and offenders to prevent reoccurrence of child abuse.
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 noted that an important aspect of the law is to protect abused children from future abuse. Mandy highlighted the many changes in the law over the years, Mandy also provided an extensive list of others, who routinely work with children, who may also require this training. This list of 16 mandated reporters 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. Mandated reporters are required to support suspicion of child abuse even if not working at their profession at the time of learning about the incident. 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 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. As in her previous workshops, Mandy pointed out that a 13-year-old may legally consent to sexual activity with a similar age peer. Mandy 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 until age 18 to be considered child abuse. Less than the four-year difference is reportable child abuse, even if permitted by the parent (e.g. 14 and 19-year-old). She suggested that all mandated reporters routinely review the Keep Kids Safe website for updates and clarification about this topic as it becomes available: This can be found at: http://keepkidssafe.pa.gov
During her presentation, Mandy discussed the “indicators” or signs and symptoms of the types of child abuse. These include unexplainable changes in behavior, sleep patterns, eating habits, bruises or physical signs, such as loss of abilities, such as inability to run or refusing to sit. 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.
Mandy also said that the mandate for child abuse reporting ends when the child reaches age 18. The exception is if the child ha certain disabilities or 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 described the child-abuse reporting process. To make a report the person must:
- Call the child-abuse hotline (1-800-932-0313) or report electronically at www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis/public/home
- Complete the CY47 form and submit to the local agency within 48 hours.
- Cooperate with the investigation.
During her presentation, Mandy discussed recent updates to the Child-Protective Services law. These updates include Child-Trafficking, whether for sexual purposes or child labor.
Mandy did a nice 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 victim’s responses.
She presented the acronym “SSABER” as a guide to help children when talking about abuse.
Stay Calm – “I am happy to help you.”
Support – “I am sorry this happened to you.”
Affirm – “You did the right thing by telling me.”
Believe – “It’s not your fault. I believe you.”
Empower – “You have the right to be safe.”
Report – “We need to tell others about this to make sure you are safe.”
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. Although the purpose of the law is not to scare providers, 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 knowingly or willingly fails to report. The Bottom Line = When in Doubt, report.
Mandated Reporters are protected from prosecution for a “Good Faith” report, even if the report is unfounded. Vindictive or frivolous reporting can be prosecuted.
Mandy reported on the results of the “Adverse Childhood Experiences” (ACE) study. This study involved 17,000 participants who reported a score from 0 to 10 on traumatic childhood experiences that were not treated at the time. The results reported that 60% of participants experienced child abuse as a child, and 25% experienced neglect. The impact of trauma is cumulative, leading to a wide range of health and social problems and an increase in risky behavior for children and youth. There is also an increase in alcohol and substance abuse, obesity and serious mental health problems such as depression as adults for these participants. The study concluded:
- Childhood trauma occurs in all communities.
- Childhood trauma has long-term damaging consequences
- One caring adult can make a difference.
Mandy ended the workshop by talking about self-care for those who are mandated reporters. She acknowledged how stressful working in human services can be for many professionals. Having to report child abuse can put someone over the top of their stress tolerance. Seeking support, staying healthy, knowing your own limitations, and reminding yourself that reporting a suspicion of child abuse is the right thing, are important self-care reminders. She provided three quick audience participating vignettes to illustrate the difficulty of determining if child abuse occurred and reminded the audience to report suspicions and let the experts determine abuse.
The question and answer format appeared to work well. Although Mandy was able to answer questions at the break and after the presentation, the format allowed the audience to write questions during her talk. There were very good questions and excellent answers from Mandy on several topics. These included reporting past child-abuse after reaching adulthood, (not mandated). Need to report abuse if a child observes domestic violence (not mandated unless the child is abused), and the impact of quarantine on reports of child abuse in Bucks County (national decline in reports initially including Bucks County due to isolation).
Although this workshop is necessary to renew licenses for professionals in 29 Pennsylvania licensing Boards and others, today’s presentation is valuable above and beyond the requirement. Thank you, Mandy, once again, for making this very serious topic, interesting, and a good learning experience. Overall, I thought this was an important and informative workshop!
What did you think?