Child Protection Agencies Rely on Trained 'Mandated Reporters' to Identify Abuse

Jan 20, 2010, 08:34 ET from Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance

HARRISBURG, Pa., Jan. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Information supplied by "mandated reporters" trained to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect give child protection agencies a better shot at helping endangered or abused children, according to Lori Lower, long-time administrator of the Perry County Children & Youth Office.

Lower said most of the abuse and neglect investigations her agency handles are initiated as result of outside reports.

"The earlier we can intervene, the better it is for the child and the family," Lower said. "If the agency isn't aware, we're not going to be able to do anything about it."

Early intervention, she explained, can be the difference between being able to address and help solve problems and keep a family intact versus placing a child in foster care.

Basically, mandated reporters are the eyes and ears of a community. They're people who come into contact with children in the course of performing their jobs and are required by law to report suspected abuse and neglect. They include nurses, health and social service workers, teachers and other school employees, law enforcement authorities, and members of the clergy.

Lower has worked with the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance (PFSA) for the last seven years providing training to mandated reporters. PFSA programs trained 7,880 mandated reporters throughout Pennsylvania during the past year.

She said training helps mandated reporters understand the reporting process and their responsibilities and gives them confidence in their judgment. "People want to know how they can help," she said.

PFSA recently went on record in support of state Senate Bill 1137, which would require three hours of abuse-identification training every five years for teachers and other mandated reporters employed by or under contract to public school districts, intermediate units, vocational-technical schools, charter schools, and private schools.

Lower said she was wholeheartedly in favor of the proposed legislation. She said that in her experience, the more training that mandated reporters receive "the more vested they are" in their responsibilities.

More than 25,650 cases of suspected child and student abuse were reported in Pennsylvania last year. Slightly more than 16 percent of those reports—more than 4,200—were substantiated.

Fifty children died from abuse, four more than 2007 and 19 more than 2006. Abuse also accounted for 6,140 injuries to children. Physical injuries ranged from bruises and abrasions to broken bones, skull fractures, and scaldings. The majority of injuries were sexual in nature, ranging from sexual assault to rape and incest.

For more information, visit the PFSA Web site at

SOURCE Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance