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Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting FAQs

What is the mandatory child abuse reporting requirement?

Swarthmore College strives to safeguard the well-being of Minors visiting campus and/or participating in College-sponsored programs. As a result, this Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting Policy addresses Swarthmore College employee mandatory reporting obligations when child abuse is suspected; describes what to report; and details how to make a report.

As Swarthmore College staff, instructional staff member (including faculty), volunteers and independent contractors do I have additional reporting obligations beyond Pennsylvania law?

Yes. Swarthmore College policy requires all College staff, instructional staff (including faculty), volunteers, and independent contractors who, in the course of their business or volunteer activity have reasonable cause to suspect that a Minor is a victim of child abuse, as defined by the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, to make a report as outlined in this policy.

Am I a mandated reporter pursuant to Pennsylvania law?

Under the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. 6301, et seq.), the following adults are considered mandated reporters and are required to report suspected child abuse if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse:

  1. A person licensed or certified to practice in any health-related field under the jurisdiction of the Department of State
  2. A medical examiner, coroner, or funeral director
  3. An employee of a healthcare facility or provider licensed by the Department of Health, who is engaged in the admission, examination, care, or treatment of individuals
  4. A school employee
  5. An employee of a child-care service who has direct contact with children in the course of employment
  6. A clergyman, priest, rabbi, minister, Christian Science practitioner, religious healer, or spiritual leader of any regularly established church or other religious organization
  7. 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
  8. An employee of a social services agency who has direct contact with children in the course of employment
  9. A peace officer or law enforcement official
  10. An emergency medical services provider certified by the Department of Health
  11. An employee of a public library who has direct contact with children in the course of employment
  12. An individual supervised or managed by a person listed above, who has direct contact with children in the course of employment
  13. An independent contractor who has direct contact with children
  14. 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
  15. A foster parent
Do I come into contact with Minors in the course of my employment or volunteer activity at Swarthmore College?

Most likely, yes. There is a high likelihood you will encounter Minors in one of the many following circumstances: College students who are 17 years old and under (a category that many new freshmen, and others, fall into each year); patrons of our public libraries; pre-enrollment activities such as tours, admissions visits or recruitment activities; Minors working in labs; research studies involving Minors; Minors participating in field trips to our campuses; overnight guest visits; youth program campers; and any employees who are 17 years old and under who work in at the College.

How do I know what to report? What is child abuse?

You must report child abuse when you have reasonable cause to suspect Child abuse.   According to the CPSL, child abuse means intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly doing any of the following:

  1. Causing bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
  2. Fabricating, feigning, or intentionally exaggerating or inducing a medical symptom or disease which results in a potentially harmful medical evaluation or treatment to the child through any recent act.
  3. Causing or substantially contributing to serious mental injury to a child through any act or failure to act or a series of such acts or failures to act.
  4. Causing sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any act or failure to act.
  5. Creating a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
  6. Creating a likelihood of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any recent act or failure to act.
  7. Causing serious physical neglect of a child.
  8. Engaging in any of the following recent acts:
    1. Kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing, or cutting a child in a manner that endangers the child.
    2. Unreasonably restraining or confining a child, based on consideration of the method, location, or the duration of the restraint or confinement.
    3. Forcefully shaking a child under one year of age.
    4. Forcefully slapping or otherwise striking a child under one year of age.
    5. Interfering with the breathing of a child.
    6. Causing a child to be present during the operation of a methamphetamine laboratory, provided that the violation is being investigated by law enforcement.
    7. Leaving a child unsupervised with an individual, other than the child's parent, who the actor knows or reasonably should have known:
      1. is required to register under Megan’s Law as a Tier II or III sexual offender;
      2. has been determined to be a sexually violent predator under Megan’s Law; or
      3. has been determined to be a sexually violent delinquent child under Megan’s Law.
  9. Causing the death of the child through any act or failure to act.
When must a report be made?

A mandated reporter is required to make a report of suspected child abuse if the mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is a victim of child abuse under any of the following circumstances:

  1. When you come into contact with the child in the course of employment, occupation, and practice of a profession or through a regularly scheduled program, activity, or service.
  2. When you are directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance, or training of Minors, or are affiliated with an agency, institution, organization, school, regularly established church or religious organization, or other entity that is directly responsible for the care, supervision, guidance or training of the Minors.
  3. A person makes a specific disclosure to the mandated reporter that an identifiable child is the victim of child abuse.
  4. An individual 14 years of age or older makes a specific disclosure that the individual has committed child abuse.
    How do I make a report if I suspect child abuse?

    If the child you would like to report is in imminent danger, please call 911 immediately.

    1. Report to Childline
      1. Immediately call Pennsylvania's ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313; and
      2.  Within 48 hours Submit an Online Report to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services at www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis
    2. Report to Public Safety. After contacting Pennsylvania’s ChildLine, notify Swarthmore College Director of Public Safety, Michael Hill 610-328-8281 mhill1@swarthmore.edu) and complete the Public Safety Reporting Form.
    What if I am not sure whether the information I have constitutes reasonable suspicion of abuse? How should I decide whether to make a report? Should I investigate to be sure?

    Pursuant to College policy, you should always resolve any uncertainty in favor of making a report. It's best to err on the side of caution and quickly refer your concerns to the dedicated professionals at ChildLine so they can make the proper determination.  In addition, Swarthmore College policy imposes broader obligations than the law, so the obligation on employees, volunteers, and independent contractors of the College is broader than the obligations on the general public.  Under the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, a person acting in good faith who makes a report of child abuse, whether required to report or not, has immunity from civil and criminal liability.  Do not investigate, do not attempt to obtain proof, and do not try to solicit information from the child. This responsibility lies with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

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

    If a mandated reporter has reasonable cause to suspect child abuse, they have an obligation to make a report pursuant to Pennsylvania law and College policy. The mandated reporter is not required to have received the information directly from the child in order to make a report.

    What if a person over the age of 18 discloses abuse that occurred when they were under the age of 18?

    In certain circumstances, the Child Protective Services Law does not mandate the reporting of historical abuse if the victim is now over the age of 18. However, it is best to discuss and encourage reporting with the alleged (now adult) victim of historical abuse and also encourage them to seek supportive services.

    Note: You must make a report if, in the course of learning of past abuse of someone who is now an adult, you learn or suspect abuse of anyone who is currently a Minor.

    What if a mandated reporter fails to follow the law?

    Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, the penalties for a mandated reporter who willfully fails to report child abuse range from a misdemeanor of the second degree to a felony of the second degree.

    Pursuant to College policy, if any College employee, volunteer, or independent contractor negligently, recklessly, or willfully fails to report a case of suspected child abuse, then that individual is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.

    Can you report suspected abuse if you are not a mandated reporter?

    Anyone who is concerned about the safety of any child is encouraged to make a report and, pursuant to Swarthmore College policy, you are required to do so. 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?

    Pursuant to Pennsylvania law, 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.

    If I make a report in good faith within my work environment, is there protection from retaliation?

    Swarthmore College specifically prohibits retaliation. See Mandatory Child Abuse Policy and Reporting Concerns about Inappropriate Activities Policy

    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. To the extent provided by law, Swarthmore College will preserve the confidentiality of all child abuse and neglect reports and records to protect the privacy rights of the person making the report.

    How do I obtain more information about the CPSL, my obligations, and training opportunities?

    Updated June 14, 2022 

    Disclaimer

    The information and materials on this website is offered for informational purposes and is not legal advice. The office is available to assist the College community with College-related legal issues. The Office of the General Counsel represents Swarthmore College only and cannot provide legal advice to students or employees of the College on individual and personal matters. If you have legal questions of an individual nature, please contact an attorney of your choosing, or seek an attorney referral from the Delaware County Bar Association, Philadelphia Bar Association, or the College's Employee Assistance Program, Carebridge (1-800-437-0911).