Report: Child abuse accusations skyrocket following new reporting laws

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Following the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, state lawmakers passed two dozen new laws aimed at protecting children.

Some tweaked the definition of abuse, others mandated who had to report and where.

The Annual Child Protective Services Report released this week by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services suggests that those new laws are working.

There was a huge spike in the number of people calling Child Line (800-932-0313) to report abuse.

In 2014,there were 29.273 calls of suspected abuse.

In 2015, there were 40,590, an increase of nearly 40 percent.

“I think the good news in the report is that people are reporting it,” Pennsylvania Secretary of Human Services Ted Dallas said Thursday afternoon. “Child abuse continues when people don’t talk about it and people don’t report it, or they worry that they’re talking about their neighbors or their friends and they don’t want to get involved.”

But the report’s good news ends at the increased participation. There are some very bad things in the 2015 numbers.

“Thirty-four children died as a result of child abuse,” said Tina Phillips with the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, which provides child abuse training to mandated reporters. “That number is always staggering and it reminds us of the work that we have to do.”

Thirty-four kids, the equivalent of a large classroom, lost their lives to abusers last year. The report shows the equivalent of a small school district suffered other forms of abuse in 2015.

Substantiated cases were 4,203, up from 3,340 in 2014.

“Those are numbers in a report, but each one of those is a kid,” Phillips reminded. “It’s good that we’ve identified more kids, victims of abuse, to make sure they get the services that they need.”

The annual report shows the need is great and shows that county agencies are struggling to keep up with all those calls of possible abuse that need to be investigated.

“I suspect that in places that have been particularly hard hit, you’ll see increases in requests for staffing,” Dallas said. “We’ll evaluate those based on staffing ratios and where warranted will increase them.”

But to those on the front lines in the fight against child abuse, increases are warranted everywhere across the state. More manpower, more training, more money are all necessary to bring the report’s numbers down.

Phillips doesn’t point a finger at a specific county, or caseworker or state agency or advocacy group, but she does point fingers at all of the above.

“We all need to do better,” she said. “We all need to do better because we all have a role in protecting kids. If one kid dies, then we’re all not doing our jobs as well as we can.”

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