In 2012, the infamous child sex abuse trial of Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, took place. During the proceedings, it was revealed that an assistant coach had witnessed the coach molesting an underage boy a decade prior and reported nothing. The resulting outrage on the part of the public was intense. As a result, Pennsylvania quickly expanded its list of professionals considered mandatory reporters, along with the legal definition of child abuse and the penalties facing those who fail their duty to report. The results of this expansion, however, have reached far past what was expected. Here is a look at mandatory reporting laws and their effects across Pennsylvania.
What is the Purpose of Mandatory Reporting?
Child abuse is a crime that is often ongoing for many years before it is brought to the attention of the police or ChildLine. Many cases are never discovered or reported. Mandatory reporting laws were enacted to require professionals who have regular contact with children to report any signs of possible abuse to authorities. The purpose of this requirement is to protect children from abuse and neglect as early as possible so that they have a higher chance of going on to live a functional life as adult citizens. Since it is common for people to shy away from inserting themselves into what can feel like a private parenting matter, mandatory reporting laws include legal penalties for professionals who are classified as mandatory reporters and fail to report signs of abuse or neglect. Those penalties can range from a misdemeanor to felony criminal charges in addition to civil liability.
Who is Considered a Mandatory Reporter?
In Pennsylvania, there are currently 15 categories of professionals who are considered mandatory reporters. These cover all licensed medical providers, funeral directors, child care center and school employees, religious and law enforcement officials, library employees, certain attorneys, foster parents, and more. Generally speaking, anyone who has access to or holds a position of authority over children in any capacity of their profession is now required to report possible signs of abuse or neglect without any evidence required.
What are the Side Effects of Mandatory Reporting Laws?
When Pennsylvania expanded its mandatory reporting laws in the wake of the Sandusky trial, reports of potential abuse rose a startling 72% over the next five years. As many as nine out of ten of these increased reports were eventually dismissed as unfounded after an investigation was conducted. It appears that the threat of legal action against professionals who fail to report any possible sign of abuse or neglect may have largely resulted in limited resources being utilized for the investigation of cases that largely do not reveal serious abuse or neglect.
How the Lento Law Firm Can Help
If you are involved in a child abuse or neglect investigation due to mandatory reporting, you need an attorney to represent your side of the story and the interests of your family unit as a whole. Childline investigations are not subject to the same rules of due process that regulate a criminal investigation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has a long history of protecting the rights of parents and will fight to keep your family together. Call the Lento Law Firm at 888.535.3686 or reach out online to discuss your case.