COVID-19 Resource Center

July 29, 2015

Sweeping Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law Changes

Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) was amended in 2014 to include substantive changes to the requirements for the mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. The new law became effective December 31, 2014.

Specified Mandated Reporters

The new law now specifically lists mandated reporters to include:

  • 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;
  • 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 defined as Attorney General, District Attorney, Pennsylvania State Police and municipal police officer;
  • 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 their employment;
  • An independent contractor who has direct contact with children;
  • An attorney affiliated with an agency, institution, organization or other entity that is responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or control of children; and
  • A foster parent.

Expanded Definitions:

The amended law is more expansive by removing the term “serious” from “bodily injury,” and making recklessness, in addition to intentional conduct, reportable. The new expansive definition is expected to lead to more investigations and substantiation of child abuse. The amended requires reporting any recent act or failure to act including serious mental injury. Certain enumerated conduct is specifically stated such as kicking, biting and burning a child, unreasonably restraining or confining a child, shaking or slapping a child under one year of age.

Volunteers

Where the law was previously focused on people who came into contact with children based upon employment, there were concerns with the need to make volunteers responsible for reporting abuse and/or neglect. The law now speaks to individuals, paid or unpaid, who are responsible for children in a regularly scheduled program, activity or service.

School Employees

The definition of school is also broadened from an “individual employed by a public or private school, intermediate unit or area vocational-technical school” to include, among others, public and nonpublic schools, community colleges, and institutions of higher education.

Attorneys

Family law attorneys and those representing parents in custody and dependency actions must be aware of the new provisions that state that it is “child abuse” for a parent to leave a child in the care of a person who is known, or reasonably should be known, to be one of an enumerated list of criminals including, registered Tier II or Tier III sexual offenders of victims 18 years old or less, a sexually violent predator, or a sexually violent delinquent child. While the law is newly amended and courts have not yet defined, in the context of child abuse, what “knows or reasonably should have known” means, parents not only have the duty to provide proper care and supervision when entrusting their children to the care of others but may, by the expanded law, be perpetrators themselves for failing to take reasonable steps to ensure their child’s safety.

Mandatory Training

The amended CPSL now requires that certain individuals undergo reporting training, including: all persons applying for a license or certification issued by a Department of State licensing board; certain operators of institutions, facilities, or agencies that care for children and are subject to supervision by the Department of Human Services; and certain foster parents. Organizations, not specifically included should consider providing training to employees and volunteers.

What It Means to You

Insurance carriers and their insureds that operate businesses with mandated reporters should consider training under the amended law whether or not they fall under the mandatory training list. C&W attorneys practice in the areas of professional liability, municipal law, and others, which are impacted by these sweeping changes to the law, and will continue to monitor (and report) the implementation of the law as it is interpreted by case law.