Monday, November 14, 2011

Penn State: Pennsylvania lags behind in reporting child abuse

Pennsylvania State Representative Dan Deasy intends to introduce legislation requiring anyone who witnesses a sex crime against a child or anyone who is told by a direct witness of such a crime to report it to police. Failure to report would be a felony of the third degree punishable by up to seven years in prison.

There are other legislative efforts to expand the number of professionals who are mandated to report.  The legislative scramble is in response to the alleged failure of Penn State coaches and administrators to report the alleged sexual assault of a child by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and the resulting cover-up.

Pennsylvania's current mandated reporter law does not seem to keep the state in line with national averages for reporting abuse of children.  According to the Wall Street Journal, last year, roughly 120,000 calls were made to the state hot line for child abuse calls administered by the state Department of Public Welfare. About 24,000 cases were investigated, three-quarters of which came from mandatory reporters, and 3,600 cases were substantiated as abuse.

In 2009, the rate of investigations in Pennsylvania, 8.3 per 1,000 children is lower than the national average of 40.3 per 1,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The rate of rate of substantiated cases of child abuse was also lower: 1.4 per 1,000 in Pennsylvania compared with 9.3 per 1,000 nationally.

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