Changes to Pennsylvania child abuse laws take effect
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The new year brings a new effort to prevent child abuse in Pennsylvania. New laws take effect this week that are designed to protect children across the state. The new laws are the commonwealth’s response to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal at Penn State in 2011.
The measures look to improve child abuse prevention and detection.
First, lawmakers have redefined bodily abuse. It’s now legally characterized as causing substantial pain. Prior to the new law, it was constituted by severe pain and serious impairment.
Legislators are also now holding more people legally accountable for reporting suspicions of child abuse. Anyone who comes into contact with a child, or is directly responsible for their care and supervision, is considered a mandatory reporter. They must report the abuse to the state within 48 hours, or they could face legal repercussions.
The law has also stiffened penalties for those who fail to report suspected child abuse. A first offense for not reporting child abuse is now a third degree misdemeanor. It comes with a maximum sentence of one year behind bars.
Under the new law, some mandatory reporters are also now required to seek training and continuing education on detection and reporting procedures. Those programs will be offered through state licensing boards that govern them.
In addition, lawmakers have instituted employment discrimination protections for mandatory reporters who file a suspected child abuse case in good faith.