Sweeping Improvements Made To PA’s Child Protective Services Laws
During the 2013-14 Legislative Session, 23 pieces of legislation were enacted changing and improving how Pennsylvania responds to child abuse. To ensure that you, your school districts and organizations are kept up-to-date on the implementation of these changes, I wanted to make you aware of the resources available on my website. A summary of the laws are listed below. Information on changes to the law, links to training providers and online child abuse clearances are also available at: www.KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov.
Child Abuse History Clearances
One of the most significant changes addresses the clearance requirements in order to work or volunteer for positions that are responsible for the welfare of a child or have direct contact with children. These requirements apply to persons who provide permanent or temporary care, supervision, guidance, control or have routine interaction with children in the course of their employment or volunteer work. Routine interaction is regular, ongoing contact that is integral to the job or volunteer work being conducted.
***PLEASE NOTE*** the fees for child abuse clearances and State Police background checks are waived for volunteers who work with children. Additionally, the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) have reduced the cost of both the child abuse and criminal history record checks from $10 to $8 for all other applicants.
These changes, which I strongly supported and pushed for, were made after many volunteer organizations expressed concerns that the cost of clearances may deter individuals from volunteering to work with children.
The child abuse history clearances and state and federal criminal background checks have previously been required for certain professions such as child care employees or teachers. However, clearances were conducted upon initial hire and were not required to be updated. Act 153 of 2014 establishes a re-certification cycle every 36 months, beginning for new hires on Dec. 31, 2014. Individuals who have clearances older than 36 months have until Dec. 31, 2015, to update them. Individuals with clearances that are less than 36 months old have 36 months from their most recent clearances to update them.
Adults who volunteer in unpaid roles that are responsible for the welfare of a child or have direct contact with children must obtain the State Police criminal background check and the child abuse clearance issued by the department prior to the start of their volunteer service.
A volunteer’s re-certification will also operate on a 36-month cycle similar to employees, only their re-certification time frames begin from July 1, 2015.
Beginning Dec. 31, 2014, child abuse history clearances administered by the department can be submitted and paid for online at the following link: https://www.compass.state.pa.us/CWIS.
Applicants will be notified once their results have been processed. Applicants will be able to view and print their online results. Organizations will also have the ability to create business accounts to prepay for and have access to the results of their employees or volunteers.
Clearance Fact Sheets
- Foster/Adoptive Parents
- Public School Code Employees
- Non Public School Code Employees
Child Abuse Recognition & Reporting Training
In accordance with Act 31 of 2014, certain individuals are required to complete child abuse recognition and reporting training. These individuals include operators and employees with direct contact with children in family day care homes and facilities in which the department has oversight of foster parents. Also captured in these requirements are persons seeking or holding a license by the Department of State who are identified as mandated reporters (social workers for example). A complete listing of these license holders and Act 31 approved trainings can be found at: www.KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has also collaborated with the University of Pittsburgh’s Child Welfare Resource Center to develop a free, online training, available at: www.reportabusepa.pitt.edu.
Summary of Child Protection Package
- Act 105 of 2013 directs the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to provide for a sentencing enhancement for child pornography, based upon the age of the child victimized, the number of images possessed, and the nature and character of the abuse.
- Act 107 of 2013 requires the court, in a custody proceeding, to consider factors related to child abuse and involvement with child protective services.
- Act 108 of 2013 amends the definitions of “child abuse” and related terms in the Child Protective Services Law.
- Act 109 of 2013 provides that a person who is under 18 years of age when they are victims of physical or sexual abuse may have his or her name withheld from the public domain even if the person is an adult at the time of prosecution.
- Act 116 of 2013 makes luring a child into a motor vehicle or structure a second-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison, up from a first-degree misdemeanor and five years.
- Act 117 of 2013 (Baker) updates the definition of “perpetrator” and expands the definition of “person responsible for a child’s welfare.”
- Act 118 of 2013 (Browne) lowers the age of a perpetrator for simple assault from 21 to 18, expands the definition of aggravated assault, and creates the new offenses of “intimidation or retaliation in child abuse cases” and “false reports of child abuse” to help further protect the victims, witnesses and reporters of child abuse.
- Act 119 of 2013 (Erickson) establishes accountability and due process protections for individuals working with delinquent children, and provides for penalties for making false reports of child abuse.
- Act 120 of 2013 (Smucker) establishes a comprehensive system for professional educators who are investigated and disciplined for misconduct in Pennsylvania.
- Act 123 of 2013 provides for multidisciplinary investigative teams to coordinate child-abuse investigations between county agencies and law enforcement.
- Act 4 of 2014 (Vance) requires healthcare providers to immediately report if a newborn is identified as being affected by prenatal exposure to illegal substances.
- Act 27 of 2014 funds Child Advocacy Centers with unused money in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) vehicle license plate fund.
- Act 28 of 2014 provides for Child Advocacy Centers and creates a grant program to fund those agencies.
- Act 31 of 2014 requires licensing boards to ensure that mandated reporters receive child abuse recognition and reporting training.
- Act 29 of 2014 (Vulakovich) requires the Department of Public Welfare to establish a secure, statewide database to include reports of child abuse and children in need of protective services.
- Act 33 of 2014 (Ward) makes critical improvements to the list of individuals who are required to report child abuse.
- Act 34 of 2014 (Mensch) provides employee whistleblower protection for anyone who properly and in good faith reports suspected child abuse.
- Act 44 of 2014 closes a loophole in current law in which there is no requirement to report suspected child abuse when the alleged perpetrator is a school employee unless it rises to the level of a “serious bodily injury.”
- Act 56 of 2014 increases penalties for crimes against child-athletes and sets a minimum of 15 years in prison for murder of a child who is under the age of 13.
- Act 153 of 2014 extends current clearance requirements for professionals who work with children to include anyone applying for a paid or unpaid volunteer position in which they would be responsible for the welfare of a child.
- Act 168 of 2014 prevents teachers, coaches and staff who have been investigated for abuse or sexual misconduct from moving to another school without disclosure.
- Act 176 of 2014 (Mensch) improves the exchange of information among medical practitioners and county agencies by requiring immediate reports and by allowing for follow-up reports.
- Act 32 of 2014 increases the penalty for failure to report child abuse by a mandatory reporter to a second-degree misdemeanor. Senate version: Senate Bill 22 (Ward)