Harrisburg, PA - Today, Department of Human Services (DHS) Acting Secretary Meg Snead joined the PA Family Support Alliance to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month and encourage Pennsylvanians to report suspected child abuse or neglect to ChildLine, the commonwealth’s 24/7 hotline for anyone concerned about the safety or well-being of a child. To report a concern, call 1-800-932-0313.
“Our child welfare system works best when community members know how to report concerns for a child’s well-being so that trained social service workers can investigate and provide assistive services to children and families,” Acting Secretary Snead said. “For more than 12 months now, the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clearer than ever before that there is no one government agency, nonprofit organization, school program, or individual who can single-handedly take responsibility for the welfare of Pennsylvania’s children. It is a responsibility that belongs to all of us.”
In the early months of the pandemic, reports to ChildLine of suspected abuse and neglect declined significantly compared to historical trends. Child welfare advocates and agencies who observed this decline in reports nationwide attributed the trend to reduced contact between children and mandated reporters such as teachers, social workers, child care providers and health professionals. In Pennsylvania, about a third of ChildLine reports are reported by school employees annually.
To address the reduction in calls, DHS prioritized outreach to stakeholders, partner agencies and external communication efforts to encourage members of the public to be on the lookout for signs of abuse or neglect among children in their community and to call ChildLine if they suspect a child is in danger. Reporting trends have improved since the spring of 2020, but DHS remains concerned about vulnerable children who continue to be isolated.
“We are proud to join with Acting Secretary Snead and the Department of Human Services as we work together to raise awareness about the scope of child abuse and neglect in Pennsylvania and the prevention of child maltreatment,” said Angela Liddle, President and CEO of the PA Family Support Alliance. “From our government officials and institutions to child advocates to everyday Pennsylvanians, we all have a unique role to play in ensuring that Pennsylvania families and communities provide a safe environment for all children to grow, learn and thrive. We must all lift our collective voices to boldly confront this issue and ensure that Pennsylvania’s children are protected.”
PA Family Support Alliance (PFSA) is a statewide organization that works to prevent child abuse and protect children from harm by helping parents learn positive parenting techniques; educates professionals and volunteers who work with children to recognize the signs of abuse and know how to report it; and helps community members learn how they can play a role in keeping children safe. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many children have been socially isolated. PFSA has been working closely with child welfare professionals, educators, and advocates to train them about the warning signs of abuse and neglect that can be detected virtually.
Anyone can make a report to ChildLine. Anyone who is not a mandated reporter can make a report to ChildLine anonymously.
“Whether it is a neighbor, family member, student, client, or someone you encounter in a store – if you suspect something is wrong, you can call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 and make a report,” Acting Secretary Snead said. “Reports of suspected abuse are referred to appropriate agencies for investigation, which could be county child welfare offices or regional DHS offices. Whenever appropriate, ChildLine also refers reports to law enforcement agencies for investigation. Every allegation of child abuse reported to ChildLine is investigated.”
DHS encourages all Pennsylvanians to know the signs of potential child abuse or neglect and make a report to ChildLine if they suspect abuse or neglect. Signs of abuse or neglect can include:
- Numerous and/or unexplained injuries or bruises;
- Chronic, pronounced anxiety and expressed feelings of inadequacy;
- Flinching or an avoidance to being touched;
- Poor impulse control;
- Demonstrating abusive behavior or talk;
- Cruelty to animals or others; and,
- Fear of parent or caregiver, among others.
Pennsylvanians can learn more about the signs of potential abuse at www.dhs.pa.gov/keepkidssafe.
DHS also encourages parents and families who are struggling to cope during this time of crisis to reach out for help. Anyone struggling with mental health and in need of referrals to helpful programs can call Pennsylvania’s Support & Referral Helpline, which is operated 24/7 by skilled caseworkers who can provide emotional support during this difficult period. The number to call is 1-855-284-2494. For TTY, dial 724-631-5600.
Another helpful resource is the 2-1-1 hotline operated by the United Way, which can connect people and families to local resources that can help during the public health crisis.
Pennsylvanians can apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, cash assistance, Medical Assistance and other programs any time at www.compass.state.pa.us.
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