WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE ACCORDING TO PENNSYLVANIA LAW?
Pennsylvania's Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) establishes that county children and youth agencies shall investigate cases of suspected child abuse perpetrated upon a child less than 18 years of age by either:
- the child's parent (biological, adoptive, stepparent or legal guardian)
- a paramour of the child's parent
- an individual, age 14 or older, residing in the same home as the child
- a person responsible for the welfare of the child (babysitter, child careprovider, person who provides mental health diagnosis or treatment, etc.)
The CPSL defines as follows, five (5) types of abuse, all of which must result from an act or failure to act by a perpetrator:
1. NON-ACCIDENTAL SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY: A recent* injury that causes the child severe pain or significantly impairs the child's physical functioning, either temporarily or permanently.
2. SERIOUS PHYSICAL NEGLECT: Prolonged or repeated lack of supervision or the failure to provide the essentials of life, including adequate medical care, which results in the child sustaining a condition that endangers the child's life or development or impairs the child's functioning.
3. SEXUAL ABUSE OR EXPLOITATION: Rape, sexual assault, statutory sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, aggravated indecent assault, molestation, incest, indecent exposure, promoting prostitution, pornography, or other form of sexual exploitation of the child.
4. SERIOUS MENTAL INJURY: A psychological condition, as diagnosed by a physician or licensed psychologist, that renders the child chronically and severely anxious, agitated, depressed, socially withdrawn, psychotic or in reasonable fear that his or her life or safety is threatened, or seriously interferes with the child's ability to accomplish age-appropriate developmental and social tasks.
5. IMMINENT RISK: A recent* act or failure to act that creates an imminent risk of serious physical injury or sexual abuse/exploitation of the child that occurs during an incident or series of incidents.
* within two (2) years of the date of the report
If a reporter determines that the alleged abuse occurred when the victim was less than age 18, but the victim is presently between the ages of 18 and 20, a report should still be made to ChildLine or the county children and youth agency.
In situations of alleged abuse where the alleged perpetrator is not related to the victim in a manner described above, the county children and youth agency does not have investigational authority over the case. In these instances, the reporter should make a referral to the appropriate jurisdictional police department or District Attorney's Office. An example of such a situation would be where the child was allegedly sexually molested by a neighbor who was not babysitting the child at the time of the alleged incident.
When a reporter discovers an instance of a school student sustaining "serious bodily injury" or sexual abuse allegedly inflicted by a school employee, a report should be made to the jurisdictional police department or District Attorney's Office. Serious bodily injury is injury that creates a substantial risk of death or which causes serious permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ.