New PA Child protection laws in effect

Southeast District Safe Sanctuaries training on Oct. 25. ---Sabrina Daluisio photo

Southeast District Safe Sanctuaries training on Oct. 25.—Sabrina Daluisio photo.

This is a reminder that all the new changes to the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law that were presented in the Safe Sanctuaries trainings on October 25, 2014 are now in effect. Churches, staff and volunteers who work with children are now required to follow all of these laws. The most important changes for our churches are the following:

  • Every staff person and volunteer is now a mandated reporter of suspected child abuse.
    • This means, for example, that a Sunday School teacher who has “reasonable cause to suspect” that abuse has occurred is required to report that suspected abuse to Childline (800-932-0313) directly. Immediately after filing the report, the Sunday School teacher then must report the filing to the person in charge at the church (pastor, director of Christian education, etc, as designated by the church)
  • Requirements for background checks have changed. The following requirements are now in effect for all new employees and volunteers. Existing staff and volunteers will need to meet these new requirements the next time their clearances are due to be renewed.
    • Employees age 14 and over
      • PA State Police Criminal Records Check
      • PA Child Abuse Clearance (Childline)
      • FBI Clearance (fingerprinting)
      • All three repeated every three (3) years
    • Adult Volunteers
      • PA State Police Criminal Record Check (Form SP 4-164 $10)
      • PA Child Abuse Clearance (DPW) (Form CY-113 $10)
      • FBI Clearance  (fingerprinting) ($27.50) – UNLESS:
        • Has been a resident of Pennsylvania for all of the past ten (10) years
        • Affirms in writing they have not been convicted in any other state of any of the Pennsylvania offenses that prohibit service.
      • All the above repeated every 3 years

In all, 23 pieces of legislation were enacted, changing how Pennsylvania responds to child abuse. These changes significantly impact the reporting, investigation, assessment, prosecution and judicial handling of child abuse and neglect cases.

According to the state, the intended purposes are to:

  • Strengthen our ability to better protect children from abuse and neglect by amending the definitions of child abuse and perpetrator;
  • Streamline and clarify mandatory child abuse reporting processes;
  • Increase penalties for failure to report suspected child abuse and protect persons who report child abuse;
  • Promote the use of multi-disciplinary investigative teams (MDITs) to investigate child abuse related crimes; and
  • Support the use of information technology to increase efficiency and tracking of child abuse data.

The Website KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov is designed to serve as an information hub for child protection policies, training for child abuse recognition and reporting, and getting  clearances. It also offers a link for mandated reporters to use in electronically reporting suspected child abuse. For more information, visit www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) announced last week the launch of Child Welfare Information Solution (CWIS), a state-of-the-art, case management system that allows for real-time electronic sharing of state and county information critical to administering the child welfare program.

“County caseworkers will have access to data through this system that will arm them with information to assist in efforts to better protect children,” said DHS Secretary Bev Mackereth.

To apply for a PA Child Abuse History Clearance online, visit www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis.  Mandated reporters may also use the site to report suspected abuse.

Also, see and download the newly updated (as of Jan. 16) Safe Sanctuaries Training Powerpoint Presentation (PDF format) on our Website!