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Pennsylvanians obligated to report suspected child abuse lack training, clarity about their role

CONTACT: Cathleen Palm

March 30th — Today the Protect Our Children Committee (POCC) released findings from a statewide survey of more than 1,200 mandated reporters of suspected child abuse. More than 200 employers also responded to the survey.

Click here for the full report on mandated reporters.

"The findings released today expose a troubling lack of understanding about who is legally obligated to report suspected child abuse," said Cathleen Palm, Co-Founder of POCC. "Social workers, police officers, child care providers, physicians and teachers were among repsondents either convinced they have no obligation to report suspected child abuse or confused about their required role."

A core ingredient to Pennsylvania's child abuse prevention and treatment efforts relates to the role of mandated reporters — persons who in the course of employment, occupation or practice of a profession comes into contact with children. Since 1975, mandated reporters (e.g., law enforcement, doctors, teachers, social workers, etc) have been legally obligated to report suspected child abuse to ChildLine. In 2009, Mandated Reporters (MRs) reported over 18,000 cases of suspected child abuse — approximately 75 percent of all reports made.

Today's survey findings included:

  • 6% of all MRs, including police officers, social workers, teachers and physicians, either indicated they were not required to report suspected child abuse or were uncertain about their legal obligations;
  • 14% of MRs had never been trained including: Police Officers, School Nurses, Clergy, Private and Public school employees, Pediatricians and early childhood providers;
  • Another 24% were trained before significant changes were made to Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law in 2006;
  • 52 percent of training occurred without any pre- and post-training testing to determine whether the training had been effective;
  • Approximately 80 percent of the training was not clearly linked to continuing education units (CEUs)

"The safety, health and well-being of the state's at-risk and abused children requires that the Commonwealth strengthen its child protection efforts, in part, by giving mandated reporters the training and tools they need to competently fulfill their duties," said Dr. Wanda Filer, former Physician General for Pennsylvania. "Pennsylvania needs a statewide action plan to get all mandated reporters effectively trained."

POCC was founded in 2003 and today is Pennsylvania's foremost statewide coalition dedicated to preventing child abuse and realizing intentional child welfare reforms. The full report on mandated reporters can be found at


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