Central Pa. responding to more child abuse cases

Statistics show more people are reporting child abuse in the Midstate. The people who handle those calls say more awareness is a good thing, but it’s also stretching their resources.

“If I saw kids being screamed at in the parking lot, as a human being you sort of go, ‘Oh shoot, what do you do? How do you intervene? What’s appropriate?,'” Cumberland County’s Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program Director Anita Brewster said.

Brewster told abc27 she’s thrilled that new legislation has cleared up some of those questions. Now, more areas are classified as child abuse, and more volunteers (including CASA volunteers) are required to go through intensive training to detect child abuse.

“That’s the piece that many of us never grasped before,” Brewster said. “I know I didn’t. And I’m happy to see that there is absolutely a way to get to the bottom of it.”

abc27 contacted almost every county in the Midstate. Most responded, saying they’ve seen big spikes in reported child abuse cases since the new laws went into effect. For example, Cumberland County says it’s seen a 35 percent spike. But administrators say that can be a double-edged sword.

“We understand why and fully support the legislation they passed,” Cumberland County Children and Youth Services Administrator Wendy Hoverter said. “They need to support it and make it possible for it to work in the way it’s supposed to.”

Hoverter says the recommended number of open cases for a department like hers is 12; Cumberland County is currently at 40.

“If you have someone with a very complicated job in protecting children who is having to continually run long hours, they’re not capable of maintaining that for a long time, and therefore the quality of their work could decline,” Hoverter said.

Cumberland County hired more staff to prepare for the new laws, but Hoverter says it’s not enough. The Department of Children and Youth Services is hoping a second look at the budget will allow for more future hires to handle the heavy caseload, and ultimately, protect the children.

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