The Task Force on Child Protection, which was created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Governor Tom Corbett, has issued a report recommending several changes to the existing laws governing child abuse.
“The task force’s recommendations call for what is essentially a complete rewriting of the Child Protective Services Law – such as redefining and clarifying what constitutes child abuse itself, and expanding the list of those who are required to report child abuse to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine,” said Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, chairman of the task force. The report also calls for upgrading some crimes and adding new offenses, transforming the way information about child abuse is handled and maintained, how crimes are investigated, and how people who are responsible for the wellbeing of children are trained.
Suspected abuse can be reported to ChildLine 24 hours a day and seven days a week at 1-800-932-0313.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) commended the 11-member task force for its thorough examination of the laws and procedures designed to protect children from abuse. PCC said it would review the task force report and support recommendations that strengthen reporting, screening and educational requirements for adults who interact with children.
The Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania have for some time required training and extensive background checks for both employees and volunteers who have substantial contact with minors. The Church has trained hundreds of thousands of adults engaged in Church ministries about creating a safe environment for children.
Specifically, the Church trains those who have substantial contact with children to recognize signs of abuse and to understand their responsibility to take action if abuse is suspected. Students also receive instruction in age-appropriate child abuse awareness programs. Many of the stringent reporting and training requirements were implemented following the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which examined child abuse in the Church.
Several Pennsylvania dioceses and other Catholic organizations submitted written comments to the task force in support of tougher mandatory reporting laws, less red tape for background checks and more awareness of child abuse prevention.
In addition to contributing to the task force process, the PCC supported legislation sponsored by Sen. Pat Vance of Cumberland County that requires school employees and independent contractors to provide training on child abuse recognition and reporting to their employees who have direct contact with children. The bill was signed into law by Governor Tom Corbett.