If you Spot it, Stop it: Pennsylvania Commits to Keeping Kids Safe
In the wake of the recent arrest of Louise and David Turpin, a couple accused of torturing 12 of their children, many neighbors are looking inward and asking themselves if there was something they could have done to prevent it. For most, a child’s safety is paramount, and the details of the abuse committed by the Turpins is shocking. In order to prevent it from happening again, communities would be well served by educating themselves on how to spot and stop these atrocities.
Since 2013, 25 pieces of legislation have been enacted which changed how Pennsylvania responds to child abuse. From this new legislation, the term “mandated reporter” was further defined along with the reporting process. Mandated reporters are individuals required by law to report child abuse if they have reasonable cause to suspect a child is a victim of child abuse. Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) outlines who is a mandated reporter (school employees, law enforcement officials, etc. (for a complete list of mandated reporters visit keepkidssafe.pa.gov ) and specifies when mandated reports must be made. Mandated reporters are held to a higher standard of responsibility when it comes to reporting child abuse and subsequently failure to do so may lead to serious consequences.
A permissive reporter is anyone who has reasonable cause to suspect a child is being abused. Permissive reporters are not required by law to report, however, they are encouraged to make a report when they have reasonable cause to suspect a child is being abused. While the number of mandated and permissive reports have increased since changes to the CPSL went into effect, there continues to be several reasons why community members (permissive reporters) fail to report concerns. Some people don’t know how to report. Others are unsure whether their fears are serious enough.
No parent knows exactly how to raise a child. It’s a learning process that includes highs and lows that look different in every family. It makes sense that friends and neighbors are afraid to report a perceived abuse in their community. But there are ways to spot abuse or neglect, and Pennsylvania’s Keep Kids Safe website, www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov, offers information to help recognize the signs.
The Keep Kids Safe website has been designed to provide direct access needed to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. Child abuse refers to an act(s) that someone does intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly to a child (child = birth to under 18 years old). The act(s) may be mental, physical or sexual in nature, and may cover a wide range of misconduct and exploitation that is described on the Keep Kids Safe website. The signs of these types of abuse are there, and they’re both physical and behavioral in nature.
While it’s normal for any child to have the bumps and bruises that come with being a regular kid, unexplained injuries, or injuries they have trouble explaining, are possible indications of physical abuse. A child with numerous bruises in different places, at various stages of healing, could be experiencing abuse at home. If those bruises resemble objects, such as a buckle or a rope, that’s another tell-tale sign that something isn’t right.
During adolescence, kids can exhibit mood swings or other changes that can be attributed to adolescence. But there are behavioral ways to spot physical abuse as well. If a child is afraid to go home, flinches when touched, or exhibits fear of a parent or care-giver, it’s time to dig a little deeper into the situation. Extreme anger or anxiety can also be signs that someone in the child’s life is physically abusive.
Community members should also be on the lookout for mental abuse, which can be just as harmful to a child as any other type. Physical signs of this type of harm include bed-wetting, speech disorders, and self-harm. Behavioral signs include eating disorders, habit disorders (which include thumb-sucking, rocking, or other physical self-soothing methods), or an excessive dependence on adults. You can find a complete list of all physical, mental and sexual abuse indicators at the Keep Kids Safe website.
If you see any signs of abuse in a child in your community, ChildLine is a safe, anonymous way to report your suspicions. Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ChildLine (1-800-932-0313) is ideal for permissive reporters wishing to keep their identity secret in case their suspicions are misguided. You’ll always be treated with respect and sensitivity, and your actions could help to save a child’s well-being.
If you’d like to take a more active role in keeping Pennsylvania safe for children, you can obtain clearance to work or volunteer with children by applying online. Once clearance has been granted, you may foster or adopt children, become a school employee, or volunteer for children’s organizations. There’s no shortage of children who need loving homes and important role models.
For any and all information about spotting and stopping child abuse, visit www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov. If you have witnessed or suspect any child of abuse or neglect, please call 1-800-932-0313 and stop these crimes today.