HARRISBURG (Oct. 1, 2012) - The Pennsylvania Bar Association and 36 county bar associations across the state are launching a public education campaign about Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law and the steps any Pennsylvanian should take to report suspected child abuse.
"Under Pennsylvania law, anyone can report suspected child abuse and should do so whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect abuse has occurred," said Thomas G. Wilkinson Jr., president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, during a news conference at the state Capitol Rotunda.
"The primary message of our public education campaign is to take action if you suspect child abuse, and action is best taken by contacting the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's ChildLine," Wilkinson said. "You don't have to give your name to make a report about child abuse."
ChildLine, which is staffed around the clock every day, can be reached at 800-932-0313 (toll-free).
"Children deserve to grow up in a safe and stable family," said DPW Deputy Secretary Beverly Mackereth. "And while we have mandated reporters keeping a watchful eye, we still need help from the community to ensure that Pennsylvania's most vulnerable population is protected."
Under Pennsylvania law, adults working with children are considered "mandated reporters" and must report suspected abuse. Mandated reporters include but are not limited to medical and mental health professionals, childcare and daycare workers, law enforcement officials, foster care workers, hospital personnel, school teachers, school personnel, athletic coaches, social service workers, attorneys and members of the clergy. For attorneys and ordained members of the clergy, there are limitations on privileged communication (private statements meant to be kept in confidence for the benefit of the reporter) in cases of child abuse.
Those who are mandated by law to report child abuse and willfully fail to do so face a misdemeanor of the third degree (up to a $2,500 fine and/or one year in prison) on a first offense and a misdemeanor of the second degree on a second or subsequent offense (up to a $5,000 fine and/or two years in prison).
The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare recently compiled the following information about child abuse:
- During 2011, there were 24,378 cases of suspected child and student abuse reported in Pennsylvania. Of those, 3,408 (approximately 14%) were substantiated.
- Last year in Pennsylvania, 34 children died from abuse and in 77 percent of these cases, the perpetrators were the parents. Another 41 children suffered near fatal abuse.
- A majority (2,691 or approximately 66 percent) of the 4,071 injuries in substantiated reports of child abuse were sexual in nature, including sexual assault, rape and incest. Additional injuries ranged from cuts and bruises to skull fractures and scaldings.
- Child abuse has no geographical boundaries. Reported and substantiated cases of child abuse occurred in all 67 Pennsylvania counties last year.
Wilkinson said that state and participating county bar associations are distributing thousands of "Reporting Child Abuse" brochures as part of the education campaign. To receive a free copy of the brochure by mail, contact the Pennsylvania Bar Association toll-free at 1-888-799-4557. The brochure also is available at no cost on the association's website at www.pabar.org.
The public education campaign is being waged under the direction of the Pennsylvania Bar Association Community and Public Relations Committee with assistance and support from the PBA Children's Rights Committee and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. The campaign is funded by the Pennsylvania Bar Association and a grant from the Pennsylvania Bar Trust Fund.
Joining Wilkinson and Mackereth at the news conference were Bruce R. Beemer, chief of staff, Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General; Jason P. Kutulakis, Abom and Kutulakis LLLP, Carlisle, member, PBA Children's Rights Committee, and founder, ChildFirst PA; Sandra E. Moore, administrator, Office of Children and Families in the Courts, Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts; J. Marie Webb of Pittsburgh, chair, Pennsylvania Bar Association Community and Public Relations Committee; Lars H. Anderson of Kingston, vice chair, Pennsylvania Bar Association Community and Public Relations Committee; Robert H. Davis, Jr. of Harrisburg, member, Pennsylvania Bar Association Community and Public Relations Committee.
Local bar associations participating in the campaign include the Allegheny County Bar Association, Bar Association of Lehigh County, Beaver County Bar Association, Berks County Bar Association, Blair County Bar Association, Bradford County Bar Association, Butler County Bar Association, Carbon County Bar Association, Centre County Bar Association, Chester County Bar Association, Clarion County Bar Association, Columbia-Montour County Bar Asssociation, Cumberland County Bar Association, Dauphin County Bar Association, Delaware County Bar Association, Erie County Bar Association, Fayette County Bar Association, Franklin County Bar Association, Indiana County Bar Association, Lancaster Bar Association, Lawrence County Bar Association, Lebanon County Bar Association, Lycoming Law Association, Mercer County Bar Association, Monroe County Bar Association, Montgomery Bar Association, Northampton County Bar Association, Northumberland County Bar Association, Philadelphia Bar Association, Schuylkill County Bar Association, Union/Snyder County Bar Association, Venango County Bar Association, Washington County Bar Association, Westmoreland Bar Association, Wilkes-Barre Law and Library Association and York County Bar Association.
Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access to legal services; and serve the 28,000 lawyers who are members of the association.