15 August 2023- The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) today released the 2022 Annual Child Protective Services Report, which provides statewide and county-level data on the efforts to protect and help children who were reported as victims of suspected abuse and neglect.
The child welfare system in Pennsylvania is state-supervised and county-administered, with both playing vital roles in the protection of children. DHS urges all Pennsylvanians to report potential child abuse or neglect to ChildLine, which is a 24/7 hotline available to anyone concerned for the safety or well-being of a child, by calling 1-800-932-0313. Mandated reporters can also report to ChildLine electronically.
“All children deserve to grow and thrive in a safe, loving environment, and parents deserve support and partnership in raising healthy, happy children. Our child welfare system and the dedicated professionals who do this work are an important resource to children and families. The child welfare system exists to protect children and support families, and we will not relent from that goal,” said DHS Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh. “I want to thank everyone involved in the creation of this report. The Annual Child Protective Services Report captures the challenges we face in eradicating child abuse. This issue knows no boundaries or economic status, race, or gender; child abuse affects children from all demographics. This report also demonstrates the vital daily work of keeping kids safe and supporting families. The dedication to serving our children demonstrated by local children and youth offices every day is admirable and we appreciate their support and commitment.”
DHS is responsible for oversight and enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies that guide the provision of child welfare services by each of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania. This includes the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL), which defines child abuse and incidents in which Child Protective Services reports are necessary.
DHS also provides funding, oversight, and technical assistance to each county children and youth agency, and DHS is responsible for licensing these agencies and providers of child welfare services, and for investigating complaints received regarding these agencies.
The CPSL requires DHS to annually report to the Governor and General Assembly on child abuse in the Commonwealth. The report provides information on the efforts to protect and help children who were reported as victims of suspected abuse and neglect.
DHS continues to see these totals re-stabilize following the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in reduced contact between children and mandated reporters. The 2022 report found that:
- There were a total of 60 substantiated fatalities in 2022, compared to 58 substantiated in 2021;
- There were a total of 236 suspected near fatalities in 2022, compared to 217 in 2021;
- Reports of suspected child abuse made by mandated reporters increased by 2.8 percent; there were 39,093 reports of suspected child abuse in 2022, compared to 38,013 reports in 2021; and,
- The percent of reports of suspected child abuse that were substantiated decreased from 13.2% in 2021 to 12.8% in 2022.
Of note in the 2022 report, Pennsylvania saw a significant decrease in reports made to ChildLine for substance-affected Infants (SAI), or infants with detectable delay or harm that is associated with substance use or withdrawal. There were 496 total referrals for SAI in 2022, compared to 710 in 2021. DHS urges all families and caregivers to keep kids safe from unsecured medication; more information and tips on safe medication storage are available here.
Upon identification of a SAI, a medical professional is required to notify ChildLine and to arrange for the initial plan of safe care (POSC) multi-disciplinary team meeting. Developing an individualized POSC for SAIs and caregivers requires intentional collaboration across multiple systems to ensure both the safety and well-being of the child and address the health and substance use disorder treatment needs of the family or caregiver. If at any time there is concern for the SAI’s safety, a child protective services or general protective services referral may be made to ChildLine.
POSCs go beyond the immediate safety factors of an infant by addressing their ongoing health, development, and well-being as well as the treatment and other service needs of their caregiver(s). In 2022, 417 Substance Affected Infants had a POSC developed.
DHS operates ChildLine, a 24/7 hotline available to anyone concerned about the welfare of a child to report suspected child abuse; it can be reached at 1-800-932-0313. Mandated reporters can also report to ChildLine electronically.
“Keeping kids safe is not solely the task of government. Each and every one of us has the responsibility to take proactive, deliberate action to stop child abuse and neglect, so I urge anyone who has concerns for the safety of the children in their life to contact ChildLine immediately,” said Secretary Arkoosh.
Every allegation of child abuse reported to ChildLine is investigated. ChildLine caseworkers are trained to collect all helpful information from anyone reporting concern for a child’s well-being and to properly refer reports to investigating agencies. Investigating agencies can be county child welfare offices or regional DHS offices and, when appropriate, ChildLine also refers reports to law enforcement.
Anyone can make a report to ChildLine. Anyone who is not a mandated reporter can make a report to ChildLine anonymously. DHS encourages all Pennsylvanians to learn more about the signs of potential abuse or neglect and make a report to ChildLine if they begin to suspect abuse or neglect. Signs of potential abuse or neglect can include:
- Numerous and/or unexplained injuries or bruises;
- Chronic, pronounced anxiety and expressed feelings of inadequacy;
- Flinching or an avoidance to being touched;
- Poor impulse control;
- Demonstrating abusive behavior or talk;
- Cruelty to animals or others; and,
- Fear of parent or caregiver, among others.
Pennsylvanians can learn more about the signs of potential abuse at www.keepkidssafe.pa.gov. To report suspected child abuse, call ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.