NOVA Specialist Returns with Powerful Workshop

If you missed this morning’s workshop entitled: “Update on Mandated Reporting of Child Abuse ” you missed a winner.

By popular request, Mandy Mundy, M.S., the Senior Director of Programs and Services at Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA) returned to provide a highly energetic presentation to a full house of mental health professionals, educators, and others.

The four Goals of this Workshop included:

  • Know and understand the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters under Pennsylvania law.
  • Recognize the possible indicators of child abuse
  • Know how to make a report of suspected child abuse and neglect with confidence.
  • Develop increased understanding of the complexity of responding to child abuse and neglect by learning of possible outcomes when abuse/neglect is reported and the social, emotional and health impact of child abuse.

PA Act 31 of 2014 requires that mandated reporters include all licensed professionals among the 29 Pennsylvania licensing boards receive this training prior to license renewal.  Mandy also provided an extensive list of others, who routinely work with children, who may also require this training. This list includes, but is not limited to, volunteers working with children, all school personnel, independent contractors working in facilities that provide services to children, clergy, law enforcement, EMT’s, library employees, attorneys, foster parents etc.  She discussed the difference between “Mandated” and “Permissive” reporters. Mandated reporters are required to report suspicion of child abuse. Permissive reporters may report suspicion of child abuse. She provided the guidelines for making a report.

All of her goals were met. Mandy described the roles and responsibilities of mandated reporters clearly. She said that the roles of the mandated reporter included a discussion of the life cycle of abuse with parents and caregivers and to act as role models for parents and others as to how to have this discussion. She also pointed out that the role of reporting goes beyond the professional relationship with the child. It extends to the community and day-to-day interaction. Mostly, the mandated reporter must observe children and their behavior and report a reasonable suspicion of child-abuse to child-line, as required by law. Mandy also said that the role of some mandated reporters is to work with the perpetrators and offenders to prevent recurrence of child abuse.

Mandy gave an interesting timeline of the US and PA history of child protective services law which began in 1912. She explained the changes in the law, and the reasons for these changes. Although she made it clear that she is not a representative of Children and Youth in Bucks County, Mandy was able to describe the three services that now work together protect children. These include Child Protection Services (CPS), General Protective Services (GPS), and law enforcement.

This presentation defined the difference between a “perpetrator”, and an “offender”, and provided a discussion of the age of the child, and age differences between the child and the “perpetrator” or “offender” required to meet the definition of child abuse. As in her previous workshops, There was an audible “gasp” from the audience, when Mandy pointed out that a 13-year-old may legally consent to sexual activity with a similar age peer. There was another audible response when she said that the “perpetrator” or “offender” of abuse may be younger than the victim. Mandy also said that the law requires a four-year difference in age for sexual intercourse, once the youth becomes 16. Less than the four-year difference is reportable child abuse, even if permitted by the parent (e.g. 14 and 19). She suggested that all mandated reporters review www.dhs.state.pa.us/forchildren/keepkidssafepa/index.htm for clarification about this topic.

During her presentation, Mandy discussed the “indicators” or signs and symptoms of the types of child abuse. These include unexplainable changes in behavior, sleep patterns, eating habits, bruises or physical signs, such as loss of abilities such as inability to run or refusing to sit. She said that these symptoms are “red-flags” that may cause an adult to ask further questions of the child, perhaps leading to a report. These symptoms may also be present with many other conditions for the child and may not be related to child abuse.

She also said that the mandate for child abuse reporting ends when the child reaches age 18. The exception is if the child is still in high-school until age 21. If the child has not graduated from high school, school personnel are required to report suspected child abuse until the child “ages-out” usually at age 21. Non-school mental health professionals or other service providers are not mandated reporters once the child reaches age 18. They are then considered adults.

Mandy described the child-abuse reporting process. To make a report the person must:

  1. Call the child-abuse hotline (1-800-932-0313) or report electronically at

www.compass.state.pa.us/cwls.

  1. Complete the CY47 form and submit to the local agency within 48 hours.
  2. Cooperate with the investigation

During her presentation, Mandy discussed recent updates to the Child-Protective Services law. These updates include Child-Trafficking, whether for sexual purposes or child labor.

Mandy did a nice, but brief, job of presenting therapeutic interaction with a child who is disclosing or presenting symptoms of child-abuse. She mentioned the importance of reporting first and limiting the “internal” investigation or questions to avoid “tainting” the victim’s responses. Under confidentiality, mandated reporting “trumps” ethics” rules of most professions in Pennsylvania. Physicians, Psychologists, Social Workers, Counselors etc. are required to report suspected child abuse, despite the ethics requirement of the profession.

There are “Large Teeth” to enforce implementation of  this law in Pennsylvania. Mandy suggested that mandated reporters “err” on the side of protecting the child. Serious legal charges and fines/incarceration may occur if a mandated reporter fails to report.

The Bottom Line = When in doubt, report.

Reporters are protected from prosecution, even if the report is unfounded. Vindictive or frivolous reporting can be prosecuted.

The 3 hours went by very quickly. As usual, I am concerned, when a presenter permits participants to interrupt them with any questions at any time.  Often, they run out of time and there is a “crunch” at the end. Only the most experienced and expert presenters can pull this off.  Mandy is one of those. This worked again, this time. As in the past, there were many questions about this very important topic. Most were relevant, and interesting to most participants. Mandy answered each question completely and succinctly. She repeated the questions for all participants to hear. She was able to complete her goals within the 3 hours allowed. The attentive and eager audience appeared very satisfied, but still wanted more. I heard only positive comments during the break. Once again, more than one professional said something like, “Wow! She really knows this stuff!”

Although this workshop is necessary to renew licenses for professionals in 29 Pennsylvania licensing Boards, today’s presentation is valuable above and beyond the requirement. Thank you, Mandy, once again, for making this very serious topic, interesting, and a good learning experience. Overall, I thought this was an important and informative workshop!

What did you think?

 

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