One of the most devastating things that can occur in your life as an early learning professional is when you have reason to suspect that a child in your classroom is a victim of abuse or neglect. What responsibilities do you have to the child, and what do you do when that type of situation occurs?
The Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) was amended in 2013 and 2014 to include additional people who are considered mandated reporters under Pennsylvania Law. Effective December 31, 2014, any employee of a child care service who has direct contact with children, school employees, and any person who provides a program, activity, or service sponsored by a school is considered a mandated reporter (among a long list of other professionals and volunteers).
The CPSL also requires all employees of child care centers who have direct contact with children to have three hours of training about child abuse and neglect within 90 days of hire and every 5 years thereafter.
If you have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse, you are required to make a report. Reasonable cause can occur if it’s a child who you know through your work or volunteer experience, and it can even include children who you do not know if someone has told you about a situation where a child is being abused. It is not your job to determine if abuse has happened; you are not an investigator and you shouldn’t ask questions once you have established reasonable cause to suspect that the child has been abused.
At the point when you have reasonable cause, you must immediately make the report to ChildLine. There are two ways to make a report:
1. Call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.
2. Make the report electronically at the Child Welfare Information Solution Portal. (https://www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis/public/home)
After you have made a report, you should inform your supervisor.
A mandated reporter must personally make the report; it is not acceptable to ask a supervisor or another staff person to make it for you. A supervisor may sit in on the call as long as they do not interfere with any part of the reporting. There may be serious legal consequences if a mandated reporter does not report suspected abuse. In addition, the child could be in danger of additional abuse if action isn’t taken to stop it.
The NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct offers guidelines for responsible behavior and sets forth a common basis for resolving the principal ethical dilemmas encountered in early childhood care and education. Identifying and reporting suspected abuse are key principles included within the Code. As a teacher of young children, you have an ethical responsibility to protect them from practices and situations that endanger their health, safety, or well-being.
April is Child Abuse Prevention month, and the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance has been sharing that “Every Kid Needs a Champion” throughout the month. It’s important to remember that every child needs a champion every day, and you can be that champion by playing your role in recognizing and reporting suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. We can prevent child abuse if everyone gets involved.
Please see the following for additional information:
Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance
PA Child Welfare Resource Center – Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse
Every Kid Needs a Champion!
NAEYC – Code of Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitment