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Child Abuse Reporting Laws for Pennsylvania

Last Reviewed: June 4, 2021

State and Statute: Pennsylvania, Consol. Stats. title 23 §§ 6311 et seq.

What Is Reportable "Abuse": Physical, mental, or sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or neglect. [6303(b.1)]

Mandatory Reporters: Includes any "clergyman, priest, rabbi, minister, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer or spiritual leader of any regularly established church or other religious organization," a school employee, a child-care service employee with direct contact with children, or "an individual paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of the individual's role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, is a person responsible for the child's welfare or has direct contact with children." [6311(a)(4)(5)(6)(7)]

"A mandated reporter enumerated in subsection (a) shall make a report of suspected child abuse … if the mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse under any of the following circumstances:

(i) The mandated reporter comes into contact with the child in the course of employment, occupation and practice of a profession or through a regularly scheduled program, activity or service.

(ii) The mandated reporter is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the child, or is affiliated with an agency, institution, organization, school, regularly established church or religious organization or other entity that is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the child.

(iii) A person makes a specific disclosure to the mandated re- porter that an identifiable child is the victim of child abuse.

(iv) An individual 14 years of age or older makes a specific disclosure to the mandated reporter that the individual has committed child abuse.

(2) Nothing in this section shall require a child to come before the mandated reporter in order for the mandated reporter to make a report of suspected child abuse." [6311(b)(1)(2)]

How and Where to Report: By telephone to the Department of Public Welfare via the state's 24-hour, toll-free hotline (1-800-932-0313) or a written report submitted electronically (https://www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis/public/home). A written report must be submitted (either hard copy or electronically) within 48 hours of an oral report to the department. [6313(a)(1)(2)]

"Whenever a person is required to report…in the capacity as a member of the staff of a medical or other public or private institution, school, facility or agency, that person shall immediately notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge. Upon notification, the person in charge or the designated agent, if any, shall assume the responsibility and have the legal obligation to report or cause a report to be made in accordance with section 6313. This chapter does not require more than one report from any such institution, school, facility or agency." [6311(c)]

Timeline to Report: Immediately. [6313(a)(1)]

Clergy Privilege:

"(a) General rule. Subject to subsection (b), the privileged communications between a mandated reporter and a patient or client of the mandated reporter shall not:

(1) Apply to a situation involving child abuse.

(2) Relieve the mandated reporter of the duty to make a report of suspected child abuse.

(b) Confidential communications. The following protections shall apply:

(1) Confidential communications made to a member of the clergy are protected under 42 Pa.C.S.§ 5943 (relating to confidential communications to clergymen)." [6311.1(a)(b)]

Penalty for Knowingly Failing to Report: Third-degree felony if the person has direct knowledge of the abuse, fails to report, and the abuse involved constitutes a first-degree felony or higher. [6319(2)] First-degree misdemeanor if the person "knows or has reasonable cause to believe the child is actively being subjected to child abuse … except that if the child abuse constitutes a felony of the first degree or higher, the person commits a felony of the third degree." [6319(b)]. "A person who commits a second or subsequent offense under subsection (a) commits a felony of the third degree, except that if the child abuse constitutes a felony of the first degree or higher, the penalty for the second or subsequent offenses is a felony of the second degree." [6319(c)] Otherwise, a violation constitutes a second-degree misdemeanor. [6319(3)]

Civil Liability for Failure to Report Recognized? No statute recognizes civil liability, but court rulings in Pennsylvania have reached conflicting decisions regarding recognition of civil liability for a failure to report. Consult with legal counsel.

Immunity for Inaccurate Report: "A person … institution, school, facility, agency or agency employee acting in good faith shall have immunity from civil and criminal liability that might otherwise result from … Making a report of suspected child abuse or making a referral for general protective services, regardless of whether the report is required to be made under this chapter. … For the purpose of any civil or criminal proceeding, the good faith of a person required to report … shall be presumed." [6318(a)(1) and 6318(c)]

Disclosure of Mandatory Reporter’s Identity:: Reporter's identity not to be released, except as otherwise provided by statute. Statutorily authorized release of reports are prohibited from identifying the reporter. [6340(c)]

Additional Information for Pennsylvania:

All information provided here was most recently verified in June of 2021.

Related Topics:
Posted:
  • November 30, 2017
  • Last Reviewed: June 4, 2021

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