PURPOSE: This FAQ provides answers to frequently asked questions related to reporting suspected child abuse at Penn State University.
Please refer to Penn State Policy AD72 Reporting Suspected Child Abuse for full details.
1. Am I a mandated reporter pursuant to Pennsylvania law?
The following adults are considered mandated reporters under Pennsylvania law and are required to report suspected child abuse if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse:
- A person licensed or certified to practice in any health-related field under the jurisdiction of the Department of State
- A medical examiner, coroner or funeral director
- An employee of a health care facility or provider licensed by the Department of Health, who is engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of individuals
- A school employee
- An employee of a child-care service who has direct contact with children in the course of employment
- A clergyman, priest, rabbi, minister, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer or spiritual leader of any regularly established church or other religious organization
- An individual paid or unpaid, who, on the basis of the individual's role as an integral part of a regularly scheduled program, activity or service, accepts responsibility for a child
- An employee of a social services agency who has direct contact with children in the course of employment
- A peace officer or law enforcement official
- An emergency medical services provider certified by the Department of Health
- An employee of a public library who has direct contact with children in the course of employment
- An individual supervised or managed by a person listed above, who has direct contact with children in the course of employment
- An independent contractor who has direct contact with children
- An attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, organization or other entity, including a school or regularly established religious organization that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or control of children
- A foster parent
2. As a Penn State employee, volunteer or independent contractor, do I have additional reporting obligations beyond Pennsylvania law?
Yes. It is the policy of Penn State University to require all University employees, volunteers, and independent contractors who, in the course of their business or volunteer activity, have reasonable suspicion of child abuse, as defined by the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, to make a report as outlined in this policy. This does not include any confidential communications made to an attorney subject to the attorney-client privilege or a member of the clergy subject to the clergy-penitent privilege.
3. Do I come into contact with children in the course of my employment or volunteerism at Penn State?
Most likely, yes. It is estimated that Penn State works with over 150,000 children each year. There is a high likelihood you will encounter children in one of the many following circumstances: university students who are 17 years old and under (a category that many new freshmen, and others, fall into each year); patrons of our public libraries and museums; pre-enrollment activities such as tours, admissions visits or recruitment activities; children working in labs; campus child care center activities; research studies involving children; children participating in field trips to our campuses; overnight guest visits; youth program campers; and employees who are 17 years old and under who work in a variety of university facilities.
4. What if I learned of the suspected abuse through a legally-recognized confidential relationship, such an attorney-client relationship or a clergy-penitent relationship?
The law and University policy do not require a person to report suspected child abuse when the information is learned through any confidential communications made to an attorney subject to the attorney-client privilege or to a member of the clergy subject to the clergy-penitent privilege. Apart from attorney-client and clergy-penitent privileges, no other communications are protected under this statute. This includes communications made to mental or physical healthcare professionals, who are required by Pennsylvania law to report suspected child abuse.
5. When must a report be made?
Under Pennsylvania law, a report of suspected child abuse must be made if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse under any of the following circumstances:
- When you come into contact with the child in the course of employment, occupation and practice of a profession or through a regularly scheduled program, activity or service.
- When you are directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the child, or is affiliated with an agency, institution, organization, school, regularly established church or religious organization or other entity that is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the child.
- A person makes a specific disclosure that an identifiable child is the victim of child abuse.
- An individual 14 years of age or older makes a specific disclosure that the individual has committed child abuse.
6. Must I report suspected abuse if I learn of the abuse from someone other than the child who was allegedly abused?
Yes. Nothing requires the mandated reporter have direct contact with the child in order to make a report.
7. What if a person over the age of 18 discloses abuse that occurred when they were under the age of 18?
It is not required by Pennsylvania law or Penn State policy to report historical abuse if the alleged victim is now over the age of 18. While not required, it is best to discuss and encourage reporting with the alleged victim and also to encourage them to get support services if they have not already done so.
In addition, if in the course of learning of past abuse of someone who is now an adult, you learn or suspect abuse of anyone who is still a child, you must make a report.
8. How do I make a report if I suspect child abuse?
An immediate and direct report of suspected child abuse must made to ChildLine, either electronically at www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis or by calling 1-800-932-0313.
9. What if I am outside of the state of Pennsylvania when I learn of suspected child abuse?
- You can visit the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Child Welfare Information Gateway for a list of state child abuse and neglect Reporting Numbers
- You can call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
- Even though you may be outside of the state of Pennsylvania at the time you suspect child abuse, you can call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0310 and they may be able to assist you by providing the reporting information regarding the state in question
- If out of the country, please contact the local authorities in that country
- Whether the report is made in Pennsylvania or elsewhere, PSU is to be notified of the report by emailing AD72@psu.edu (as outlined in Policy AD72)
10. Do I need to notify anyone within my institution, school, facility or agency after I make a report?
Yes in certain instances.
If you suspect child abuse in the course of your Penn State work/volunteer activities, after making the report to ChildLine, you are required to immediately thereafter notify the person in charge of the institution, school, facility or agency or the designated agent of the person in charge.
It is the policy of Penn State University that whenever an employee, volunteer or independent contractor makes a report, that person shall also make an internal report to the University's designated agents for purposes of Policy AD72 and Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, pursuant to (23 Pa. C.S.§6311(c)) by immediately sending an email to AD72@psu.edu, and attaching the completed Form CY47 (if required). In response to the email, the person making the report will be contacted by University Police Services, Penn State's Office of Ethics & Compliance, and/or Penn State's Risk Management Office. All University employees, volunteers and independent contractors are required to assist the University, to the extent deemed necessary by the University, in gathering factual information related to the report. Forward any subsequent communication from the Department of Human Services relating to the report to AD72@psu.edu.
11. What if a mandated reporter fails to follow the law?
Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, the penalties for a mandated reporter who willfully fails to report child abuse range from a misdemeanor of second degree to a felony of the second degree.
Pursuant to University policy, if any University employee, volunteer, or independent contractor negligently, recklessly, or willfully fails to report a case of suspected child abuse, then that individual is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.
12. Can you report suspected abuse if you are not a mandated reporter?
Yes. Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a child is encouraged to make a report and, pursuant to Penn State policy, you are required to do so. Individuals who are encouraged, although not required by law, to make a report of suspected child abuse, can make a report to ChildLine by calling 1-800-932-0313.
13. What if I am not sure whether the information I have constitutes reasonable suspicion of abuse? How should I decide whether to make a report?
Pursuant to University policy, you should always resolve any uncertainty in favor of making a report. It's best to err on the side of caution and quickly refer to the dedicated professionals at ChildLine so they can make the proper determination. In addition, Penn State policy imposes broader obligations than the law, so the obligation on employees, volunteers, and independent contractors of the University is broader than the obligations on the general public. Under the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, a person acting in good faith who makes a report of child abuse, whether required to report or not, has immunity from civil and criminal liability.
14. Am I protected from civil and criminal liability if I make a report of suspected child abuse?
Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, persons making a report of suspected child abuse are immune from civil and criminal liability as long as the report was made in good faith.
15. If I make a report in good faith within my work environment, is there protection from employment discrimination?
Yes. The Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law provides protection from employment discrimination when a person has acted in good faith in making a report of suspected child abuse.
University Policy AD67, Disclosure of Wrongful Conduct and Protection from Retaliation, encourages and enables any member of the University faculty, staff or student body to make Good Faith Reports of suspected Wrongful Conduct, and to protect such individuals from Retaliation for making such reports to the University or an Appropriate Authority, participating in any investigation, hearing or inquiry by the University or an Appropriate Authority or participating in a court proceeding relating to an allegation of suspected Wrongful Conduct at the University.
16. If I make a report is my identity protected?
The identity of the person making the report is kept confidential, with the exception of being released to law enforcement officials or the district attorney's office.
To the extent provided by law, Penn State will preserve the confidentiality of all child abuse and neglect reports and records to protect the privacy rights of the person making the report.
Effective Date: June 29, 2015
Date Approved: June 29, 2015
Date Published: June 29, 2015 (Editorial Change, July 13, 2016)
Most recent changes:
- July 13, 2016 - Editorial change to FAQ#13 (paragraph 2), providing additional verbiage to assist individuals in making a decision to report if child abuse is suspected.
Revision History (and effective dates):
- June 29, 2015 - New FAQ to summarize and support Policy AD72.