calendar November 21, 2011 in Roster

How PA Child Abuse Law Relates to Churches

The recent allegations of the sexual abuse of children at Penn State serve as a reminder that pastors and church workers who have contact with children are required to report suspected child abuse.

In Pennsylvania, clergy – along with medical professionals, educators, peace officers and other who work with children – are required to report suspected child abuse, although information covered by the state’s clergy privilege law is exempt. The law does not require that mandated reporters receive any training about the process, although it is covered briefly in boundaries workshops the Synod conducts for clergy.

The Bucks County Courier Times reported Monday (11/14) that a survey last year of people required to report child abuse discovered “’a troubling lack of understanding’ about who is legally obligated to report suspected child abuse.”

“This law confuses professionals who deal with it all the time,” Brad Jackman, the attorney for Bucks County Children and Youth Social Services, told the Courier-Times.

Church staff and volunteers who work with children – in weekday schools, Sunday school and youth groups, for example, would also fall under the mandate to report, according to the Rev. Dr. Dolores E. Littleton, LMFT, the bishop’s advisor for misconduct issues. “Under no circumstances should we (churches) be about conducting our own investigations,” she said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare runs a ChildLine telephone hotline at 800-932-0313 to receive reports of suspected child abuse. Trained intake specialists take calls and determine whether reports should be referred to county child protective agencies, law enforcement or local social services agencies. Learn more about ChildLine.



Pennsylvania law regarding reporting of suspected child abuse

Background information on Pennsylvania’s response to child abuse: