Frequently Asked Questions

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse.

Are you a mandated reporter?

Mandated reporters are people who are required by law to report suspected child abuse. They make over 75% of the calls to ChildLine, the state’s 24-hour hotline to report child abuse. They are often the only link between a child and safety from abuse. It is vitally important that mandated reporters understand how to recognize child abuse and how to make reports that are timely, complete and accurate.

Mandated reporters generally are people who come into contact with children as a part of their employment, practice of their profession and, sometimes, as volunteers in child-serving programs. The Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) was amended in 2013 and in 2014, including significant changes to the list of people who are mandated to report suspected child abuse. Effective December 31, 2014, these people are considered mandated reporters under Pennsylvania Law:

  • School employee (someone who is employed by the school or who provides a program, activity or service sponsored by a school). This includes youth camp/program, a recreational camp or program; sports or athletic program, outreach program, enrichment program and a troop, club or similar organization;
  • Anyone licensed or certified under the Department of State to practice in any health-related field;
  • 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;
  • 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 including the Attorney General, a district attorney, a PA state police officer and a 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 employment;
  • An independent contractor;
  • 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.
  • An adult family member who is a person responsible for the child's welfare and provides services to a child in a family living home, community home for individuals with an intellectual disability or host home for children which are subject to supervision or licensure by the department under Articles IX and X of the act of June 13, 1967 (P.L.31, No.21), known as the Public Welfare Code.

When must a mandated reporter make a report?

To fulfill his legal mandate, when a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused, he must immediately make the report.

Must I report suspected abuse if I learn of the abuse from someone other than the child who was allegedly abuse?

How does a mandated reporter make a report if they suspect child abuse?

Reporting Abuse

To fulfill his legal mandate, when a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused, he must immediately make the report. This can now be done in two ways:

  • Call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313. ChildLine is available 24 hours/7 days a week. As a mandated reporter, you must provide your name and contact information when making the call. After making the call, mandated reporters must follow up with an electronic report or a written report completed on the CY-47 form within 48 hours of making the oral report.
  • Submit the report electronically. The report is submitted directly to ChildLine via Child Welfare Information Solution portal. You will need to include your name, telephone number and email address. You also will need to include any other actions you have taken (see below). You will receive an email confirmation that your report has been received; you should print and keep this confirmation for your records.

After making the report to ChildLine, the mandated reporter must tell the person in charge of the organization or program (for example, a school principal or the director of a child-serving program or the head Little League coach). That person then is responsible to facilitate the organization’s cooperation with any investigation and assists the mandated reporter with any concerns he may have.

Currently, only mandated reporters may make a report electronically. Everyone is encouraged to make a report if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is victim of abuse. Those people who are not mandated reporters can make a report by calling ChildLine at 800-932-0313.

For technical issues regarding the Child Welfare Information Solution Portal, please call the CWIS Support Center at 1-877-343-0494.

Read an updated version of the CPSL.
Learn about mandated reporter training.

Written Reports by Mandated Reporters  

Within 48 hours of making the call to ChildLine, mandated reporters must complete a form called a CY-47, which is a Report of Suspected Child Abuse or make an electronic report. The CY-47 form is sent to the Children and Youth office where the incident occurred, and you should keep a copy for your own records in a separate confidential file. The form should be sent to the county agency where the alleged abuse will be investigated. The written report can be made electronically using ChildLine’s Child Welfare Information Solutions Self- Service Portal.

The CY-47 form is not required if an electronic report is made in lieu of a call to ChildLine. The electronic report serves as both the oral and written report.

Other Actions by Mandated Reporters

Mandated reporters may take certain other actions on behalf of a child suspected of being abused.

A mandated reporter may also:

  • Take photographs of the child’s injuries
  • Have X-rays taken
  • Have the child hospitalized
  • Have the child placed into protective custody - according to the law
  • Have a medical exam performed by a medical professional

Any photographs, X-rays and/or medical summaries then should be sent to the county agency where the report is investigated within 48 hours of an electronic report. The mandated reporter must give the county access to the actual photographs and X-rays.

Only a law enforcement officer, physician, or hospital administrator can take protective custody of a child without a court order. This action may be taken when it is immediately necessary to protect the child. When a child is taken into protective custody, that person (e.g., law enforcement, physician, etc.) must immediately notify the county agency.

A child cannot be held in this type of protective custody for more than 24 hours. However, if necessary, the county agency can obtain a court order permitting the child to remain in protective custody for a longer period of time. If a child is taken into emergency custody, the case must be brought before a judge within 72 hours.

No county agency worker (caseworker) may take custody of the child without a court order.

In all cases, the county maintains written records of the investigation.

Information Available to Mandated Reporters After a Report is Made

Mandated reporters, under the amendments to the CPSL, will receive certain information about a child who was the subject of a report of suspected child abuse that was made by the mandated reporter. The information will be sent to the mandated reporter automatically within three days of ChildLine receiving the results of the investigation. 

Mandated reporters are allowed to know the final status of the child abuse report - whether it is indicated, founded or unfounded - and any services provided, arranged for, or to be provided by the county agency to protect the child.

Do I need to notify anyone within my institution, school, facility or agency after I make a report?

Yes, 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.

What if a mandated reporter fails to follow the 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.

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. 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.

Am I protected from civil and criminal liability if I make a report of suspected child abuse?

Yes, 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. The good faith of a mandated reporter is assumed.

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. Law enforcement and district attorney's office must treat the mandated reporter as a confidential informant.

How do I know whether I have "reasonable cause to suspect" that a child is a victim of abuse?

Reasonable cause to suspect is a determination you make, based on your knowledge of circumstances, observations, familiarity with the individuals, and feelings about the incident.

Knowledge of circumstances would include:

  • Who
  • What
  • How
  • When

Observations would include:

  • Indicators of abuse or "red flags" present.
  • Behavior and demeanor of the child.
  • Behavior and demeanor of the adult.
  • Are there any other behaviors or other observations important to notice?

Familiarity would include the knowledge you have about:

  • The individuals
  • The family situation
  • Relevant history or similar prior incidents

Think about your feelings and personal biases and consider how they influence your conclusions and actions.