Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

When mandated reporter suspects child abuse, the law requires them to immediately make an oral report of suspected child abuse via the Statewide toll-free telephone number ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 or a written report online.

If you make an oral report to ChildLine you must follow-up with a written report, which may be submitted electronically, within 48 hours. For more about how to report suspected child abuse, click here. Permissive reporters can also report suspected child abuse, but they must call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 to make the report. 

“Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse” is appropriate for all mandated reporters. The training is specifically approved by the Department of State for licensure or license renewal in health-related occupations (Act 31) and by the Department of Education (Act 126) for school personnel (Act 48 credits).

Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance’s office is located at 2000 Linglestown Rd, Suite 301, Harrisburg, PA 17110.  PFSA has a network of organizations and trainers throughout Pennsylvania who help to carry out PFSA’s mission and services in every county in Pennsylvania.

We customize our services to meet the needs of the affiliated organization; these organizations then provide Family Support Programs in their communities. Here are some services that our affiliates enjoy:

· Current information on issues facing the child welfare and abuse prevention community; an organized presence in state government to educate legislators about the needs of the families they serve.
· Organization of special events and awareness campaigns, like the Blue Ribbon campaign for Child Abuse Prevention Month.
· A video lending library and book lending library of more than 100 titles each are available to supplement the local Family Support Program meetings and enhance learning.
· When parents are looking for help, they can access a local group by calling the state office toll-free number, where we will refer them to the program.
· Training to increase the skills of staff as group facilitators; this is provided near your office at no charge. Training for childcare staff ensures the best possible program for the whole family. Plus, special sessions of our acclaimed training for mandated reporters are scheduled “for affiliates only.”
· Technical assistance and a variety of marketing materials to help local programs recruit new families. Monthly mailings provide meeting ideas, legislative alerts, and other resources to make the job easier.
· High quality publications – like the “Parenting Primers” and our parenting series on special topics, such as parents in recovery and parents with mental illness – at reduced cost to the affiliated agency.

Go to CE Credit Request and fill out a webform after the training has been completed. PFSA will then upload your verification electronically within 1-3 business days.

It’s easy to order our parenting brochures, “Building Your Family” curriculum and resources for mandated reporters. Affiliates should select Account Login and provide the assigned username and password in order to access special pricing in our online store. You can also call our office at 1-800-448-4906 for information. We accept checks and credit cards. Purchase orders are required for any materials requiring an invoice. All sales are final. Visit Store

Many times, yes. Of the 3,425 substantiated reports of child abuse, as listed in the Department of Public Welfare’s Annual Report (2013), 2,623 listed factors contributing to the cause of the abuse. The most frequently cited factors are given below. When parents receive support and education, the likelihood of these factors leading to abuse decreases. Learn more about PFSA’s local affiliates and their programs for parents.

Vulnerability of the child (79%) – Young children and children with special needs are especially vulnerable to abuse. When parents attend a Family Support Program the family is less isolated and early signs of abuse or neglect can be addressed. Parents can also find help for many kinds of problems when they connect with the Family Support Program. This makes their children less vulnerable to abuse.

Marginal parenting skills or knowledge (31%) – The Family Support Program assists parents in gaining better parenting skills as well as knowledge about the development of their children. When parents know more, they do better.

Impaired judgment of perpetrator (21%) – Many programs focus on special challenges such as mental illness or addiction and the impact of these challenges on parenting. Often parents are motivated to make changes in their own lives when they realize the effect they are having on children, and the Family Support Program can help them access services to address critical needs and then support them in their parenting. In addition, parents who attend groups get input and different perspectives from other parents in the group and learn from peers as well as professionals.

Stress (18%) – The parents who attend the program have the opportunity to discuss their stress with other parents and get feedback from them so they know they are not the only ones who are struggling.

Substance abuse (14%) – Parents are less likely to abuse alcohol or drugs while they are participating in a family support program. Parenting programs are a vital link to substance abuse treatment programs.

Insufficient social or family support (10%) – The Family Support Program becomes a vital support system for parents and parents develop informal supports and friendships with others in the group, easing isolation and increasing the likelihood that they will reach out for help when needed.

Abuse between parental figures (7%) – The group facilitator helps the family gain access to resources in the community to help combat the abuse. The support of the group is essential in helping them.

Perpetrator abused as a child (5%) – This issue may come up during group discussions and parents have the opportunity to talk with each other about how this could affect their parenting. The group can help parents to find alternative ways of parenting that are not abusive and that help the family heal from a legacy of abuse. Family Support Programs also provide referrals for counseling when needed.

(Source: 2013 Annual Report on Child Abuse, PA Department of Public Welfare)

We each have a role to play in preventing child abuse – everyone can do something to protect kids and support families. Here are just a few ideas:

· Write a letter to the editor of your paper, church newsletter or community website to discuss the problem and the importance of prevention.
· Post positive parenting thoughts, local resources and other relevant information on social media sites. Connect with sites that support parents and offer suggestions for positive parenting.
· Give your time, energy and money to programs that prevent abuse and strengthen families.
· Know how to safely step in to offer help. You can learn strategies for helping in our Front Porch Project® 
· Contact elected officials to remind them to support programs for families and remember their responses the next time you vote. PFSA advocates for legislation and initiatives that help prevent child abuse.
· If you are a parent, remind other parents that it’s OK to ask for help and support.
· Reach out to a child. A word of encouragement, a friendly smile and a compliment are really important to children (and parents)!
· Offer to help an overwhelmed parent or caregiver or share resources to make the job easier.
· Participate in Child Abuse Prevention Month events.

· Sponsor enriching activities for kids and parents at low costs, and provide child care when needed.
· Establish community coalitions to make family support a priority – include faith-based organizations, schools, sports teams and local government. Everyone can help!
· Look for the positive in your community’s kids and “catch them being good.”
· Get to know your neighbors. Sometimes a “good morning” can open the door to more communication and help neighbors look out for each other.
· Sponsor a Front Porch Project® session in your community.

Mandated Reporters

Anyone may report suspected abuse; however mandated reporters are those people who are required by law to report suspected child abuse. Mandated reporters are held to a higher standard of responsibility and may receive serious consequences for not reporting suspected abuse. Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) was amended in 2014, including substantial changes to the list of people who are mandated reporters.  These are the people who are mandated to report child abuse:

· A person licensed or certified to practice in any health-related field under the jurisdiction of the Department of State;
· A medical examiner, coroner or funeral director;
· An employee of a health care facility or provider licensed by the Department of Health, who is engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of individuals;
· A school employee;
· An employee of a child care service, who has direct contact with children in the course of employment;
· Clergyman, priest, rabbi, minister, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer or spiritual leader of any regularly established church or other religious organization;
· An individual paid or unpaid; who, on the basis of the individual’s role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child;
· An employee of a social services agency, who has direct contact with children in the course of employment;
· A peace officer or law enforcement official defined as Attorney General, District Attorney, PA State Police and municipal police officer.
· An emergency medical services provider certified by the Department of Health;
· An employee of a public library, who has direct contact with children in the course of employment;
· An individual supervised or managed by a person listed above who has direct contact with children in the course of their employment; and
· An independent contractor who has direct contact with children.
· An attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, organization or other entity that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or control of children.
· A foster parent.

For those who require the training for health-related license renewal under Act 31, as a condition of renewal, you must complete 2 hours of Department of State/Board approved continuing education in child abuse recognition and reporting within the required renewal period (24-month period). Learn More

For education professionals, Act 126 requires training 3 hours of training every 5 years. Learn More

New employees having direct contact with children in child-serving institutions, facilities, or agencies that DHS licenses, approved or registers and new foster parents must receive three hours of training within 90 days of hire or approval, and three hours of training every five years thereafter.

Prospective operators of child-serving institutions, facilities, agencies, or family day care homes that DHS licenses, approved, or registers must receive three hours of training prior to the issuance of a license, approval or registration certificate, and three hours of training every five years thereafter.

The following individuals must receive three hours of training prior to the re-issuance of a license, approval or registration certificate and three hours of training every five years thereafter:

· Current operators of child-serving institutions, facilities or agencies that DHS licenses, approved, or registers
· Current employees having direct contact with children in child-serving institutions, facilities, or agencies that DHS licenses, approved, or registers
· Current caregivers and employees in family day care homes
· Current foster parents

All other mandated reporters are not REQUIRED by law to take mandated reporter training; however, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that they still take this training. PFSA recommends that all mandated reporters take the training every 2 years to ensure they remain up-to-date on the child protection laws and how to recognize and report child abuse.

No, changes to CPSL now require that a mandated reporter must personally make the report. Your supervisor may assist you in making the report (for example, sit with you for support if you are uncomfortable in the process) as long as they do not interfere in any way with the making of the report. Afterward, you should inform your supervisor (or whoever is designated at your place of employment) about the report.

Yes. You do not have to investigate or be certain of the abuse, or even know the name of the person who is suspected of abusing a child. Your responsibility is to make a report when you have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse. Learn More

Each referral is evaluated at ChildLine by a trained caseworker who will determine the most appropriate course of action. These actions include forwarding a report to a county agency for investigation as child abuse or for assessment as general protective services, or forwarding the referral to the appropriate law enforcement official(s).  You may be contacted by children and youth or law enforcement for additional information or if they have questions.  Children and youth often offer services to families even if no abuse is present to help prevent future abuse. If ChildLine categories the report as a CPS (suspected child abuse) and you made the report as a mandated reporter, you will automatically receive a letter notifying you of the result of the investigation, to include the final status and any services planned/provided to the child/family.

The law requires the name of the mandated reporter to be kept confidential, and Children and Youth Services agents take that requirement VERY seriously. It is possible, however, that some parents will figure out where the report came from. Fears of retaliation can, unfortunately, be justified. Reporters should rely on the organizational policies that are in place to handle any potentially angry or violent client.

For instance, a parent can be equally angry if their son “the star quarterback” is not allowed to play football because of a failing grade. Professionals have resources for protecting their safety; children who are abused often do not. Reporters are encouraged to try to appreciate the parent’s reactions and fears, and assure them you only have the best interest of their child in mind and will be glad to assist them in remedying the cause for concern however you can.

Mandated reporters are protected from liability for reporting, cooperating with investigations, and testifying in court as a result of the report, among other things. As long as you make the report without malice (with good intentions based on your suspicions), you cannot be sued or receive any adverse action from your employer.  The good faith of a mandated reporter is assumed.

Willful failure to report suspected abuse is a serious crime. The first willful failure is considered a second-degree misdemeanor; if the child is found to be abused upon investigation, the willful failure to report is considered a first degree felony (or higher, depending on the situation). Penalties increase if willful failure to report continues. Learn more on failure to report.

Perhaps. New training requirements for mandated reporters were part of the 2014 amendments. In addition to required training for school employees and independent contractors (enacted in 2012), mandated reporters who hold a professional license or certification under the Department of State and mandated reports who work for an agency that is licensed, supervised or registered with the Department of Human Services are required to receive training. Foster parents are also required to have regular training. Requirements vary according to the type of employment/license the mandated reporter holds. Click here for details on training requirements.

Yes. We have been providing mandated reporter training for almost 20 years. Our training is approved by the Department of Human Services and Department of State and has been recognized as the leading curriculum for mandated reporter training. We offer several formats and training experiences. Click here to learn more about our training options.

Parents & Caregivers

Family Support Programs provide parents and caregivers with the tools to help them overcome challenges to become the most effective parent they can be. PFSA offers training, technical assistance and educational materials, as well as parent education publications and curricula, to a network of local prevention and family support programs.

Surveys of parents involved in our Family Support Programs show that 98% of parents say they now have a better relationship with their children. More than 75% say they have learned how to understand, discipline and nurture their children since attending the program.

There are lots of reasons to attend. It does NOT mean you are a bad or abusive parent if you ask for help or want to improve your parenting. For example:

· You want to change the way you relate to your children. You don’t like screaming at them or hitting them, but you are not sure what else to do.
· You feel alone, like there is no one you can talk to about what is going on at home.
· You have a friend or a family member who attends the group and is asking you to come along with them.
· The courts or Children and Youth Services have said that you must attend the group as part of your family service plan.
· Your child is changing, entering a new phase, and you are not sure what parts of his behavior are normal and what might need help.
· You did not see examples of good parenting when you were a child, and you do not want to repeat the same mistakes with your children.
· You live in a blended family and it’s hard for everyone to get along. Sometimes your new partner doesn’t discipline like you do, and you argue about that.
· You want your children to have a chance to play and learn with other kids in the child care program.
· It’s a good time for you to relax, talk with other parents and have a break from your children. Many groups offer food or other activities in addition to group meetings.
· You completed parenting classes and now want a chance to practice what you learned, getting feedback from other parents in the group.
· The facilitator can point you to services in your community that can help you and your family. You can find help for concerns other than parenting in the group.
· You love your children and want to be the best parent you can be.

Locate family support programs in your community.

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