In 2017, Child Protective Services in Pennsylvania received approximately 47,485 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect through the ChildLine reporting system. Merely 10.2% of the reports were substantiated, meaning the allegations were found to have merit. In Bucks County in 2017, there were 311 new petitions for protection related to juvenile abuse or neglect. The Bucks County Children & Youth Social Services Agency provides protective services for children and provides follow up on potential abuse or neglect.
The Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA)
In Bucks County, they implemented the NOVA program, which over a three-year period will have educated 5% of the county's population regarding the “epidemic” of child abuse. Penny Ettinger, the executive director, stated that 10% of children are subjected to sexual abuse prior to the age of 18.
Defining Child Abuse
The formal definition of child abuse in Pennsylvania has evolved and been amended on occasions since 2014 by those responsible for Child Protective Services Law (CPSL). Child abuse may involve any of the following:
- An action or failure to act by someone that results in physical bodily injury to a child that is not accidental
- Acts or a failure to act by someone that results or contributes to a mental injury, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a child that is not accidental
- Acts or a failure to act by someone that creates an “imminent risk” of the aforementioned
- Neglect of a child that involves a “prolonged or repeated” failure to supervise, or provide vital needs such as medical treatment that creates danger or impairment
Child abuse does not result from “solely environmental factors” that are unable to be controlled. In some cases, an exception applies when children are intentionally not provided medical treatment because of legitimate religious beliefs of the family.
Those Required to Report
Certain individuals are required to report suspicions of child abuse based on their employment or profession. Some of these include medical personnel such as physicians, medical examiners, psychologists, nurses, and those employed in a clinical capacity at a hospital. Others include those routinely exposed to children such as teachers, social service workers, daycare workers, and more.
Related Criminal Charges
- Endangering welfare of children (§ 4304): May occur when someone responsible for supervising children violates their duty to “care, protect, or support.” This may also occur when someone obstructs an attempt to report suspected abuse. This charge may be a misdemeanor of the first degree or a felony of the second or third degree based on the circumstances.
- Simple assault (§2701): When an adult causes or intends to cause bodily injury to a child under the age of 12 they are charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree.
- Aggravated assault (§2702): This occurs when an adult causes or intends to cause bodily injury to a child under the age of 13 and demonstrates “extreme indifference to the value of human life.” The charge is either a felony of the first or second degree based on the age of the child.
- False reports of child abuse (§4906.1): Knowingly making a false report constitutes a misdemeanor of the second degree.
- Sexual abuse of children (§6312): Applies when someone permits a child to engage in unlawful sexual acts that involve taking photographs or video. This also may involve someone who knowingly sells, distributes, displays, or otherwise disseminates such material. Based on the circumstances of the offense, it may be a felony charge of the first, second, or third degree.
Importance of Retaining Legal Counsel
Public sentiment is that crimes committed against children are particularly inexcusable. Members of law enforcement and the judicial system tend to aggressively prosecute these cases and impose harsh penalties. Having an attorney who has years of experience defending such allegations is critical to ensure your rights are protected.
Attorney Defends Charges of Child Abuse in Bucks County
Joseph D. Lento understands how sometimes overzealous prosecutors may make a rush to judgment in cases associated with child abuse. He approaches these matters by focusing on facts to create a comprehensive defense strategy in efforts to achieve a positive outcome. For a confidential and complimentary case evaluation contact the office at (888) 535-3686.