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Glossary for Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse


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  • Act = Something that is done to harm or cause potential harm to a child.
  • Adult = An individual 18 years of age or older
  • Bodily injury = Impairment of physical condition, or substantial pain
  • Child = An individual under 18 years of age
  • Child abuse = The term “child abuse” shall mean intentionally, knowingly or recklessly doing any of the following:
    • Causing bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.

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.

    • 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.

Causing sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any act or failure to act. Creating a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.

    • Creating a likelihood of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any recent act or failure to act.
    • Causing serious physical neglect of a child.
    • Engaging in any of the following recent acts:
    • Kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing or cutting a child in a manner that endangers the child.
    • Unreasonably restraining or confining a child, based on consideration of the method, location or the duration of the restraint or confinement.
    • Forcefully shaking a child under one year of age.
    • Forcefully slapping or otherwise striking a child under one year of age.
    • Interfering with the breathing of a child.
    • Causing a child to be present at a location while a violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 7508.2 (relating to operation of methamphetamine laboratory) is occurring, provided that the violation is being investigated by law enforcement. Leaving a child unsupervised with an individual, other than the child’s parent, who the actor knows or reasonably should have known:

Is required to register as a Tier II or Tier III sexual offender under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 97 Subch. H (relating to registration of sexual offenders), where the victim of the sexual offense was under 18 years of age when the crime was committed.

Has been determined to be a sexually violent predator under 42 Pa.C.S. § 9799.24 (relating to assessments) or any of its predecessors.

Has been determined to be a sexually violent delinquent child as defined in the 42 Pa.C.S. § 9799.12 (relating to definitions). Causing the death of the child through any act or failure to act. (c) Restatement of culpability.—Conduct that causes injury or harm to a child or creates a risk of injury or harm to a child shall not be considered child abuse if there is no evidence that the person acted intentionally, knowingly or recklessly when causing the injury or harm to the child or creating a risk of injury or harm to the child. (d) Child abuse exclusions.—The term “child abuse” does not include any conduct for which an exclusion is provided in section 6304 (relating to exclusions from child abuse)

  • Child Welfare Information Solution (CWIS) = An online case management system allowing for state and county acceptance of suspected child abuse reports and real-time electronic sharing of information critical to administering the child welfare program in Pennsylvania. CWIS is designed to provide the following benefits:

Child Safety Provide near-time data on children being served by the county agency Allow for the exchange of information across counties Eliminate gaps in information throughout the life of a case Program Integrity Improve the accuracy and timeliness of data to evaluate program performance and outcomes Improve tracking and auditing of state and federal funds

Modernize Process Electronically transfer Child Protective Service and General Protective Service cases to and from the State to appropriate counties A web site for mandated reporters to submit CPS and GPS cases online Ability to electronically submit and receive a child abuse history clearance through on-line capabilities

  • ChildLine = ChildLine (1-800-932-0313) is Pennsylvania’s hotline for reporting suspected child abuse. Its mission is to accept calls from the public and professional sources 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
    • ChildLine accepts reports of suspected abuse and neglect and refers reports of suspected abuse and neglect to the appropriate investigating agency to ensure the safety and well-being of the children of Pennsylvania. ChildLine also refers reports indicating that a child may be in need of other services to the proper county agency to assess the needs of the child.


  • County agency = Pennsylvania’s child welfare system is state-supervised and county-administered. Child welfare services are organized, managed, and delivered by County Children and Youth agencies. The county children and youth agency is responsible for delivering services and activities designed to prevent child abuse and neglect. They provide appropriate services to help families overcome problems and to keep children safe and families together, whenever possible.

1 County Children and Youth Agencies (CCYA) State specific term for county agency; Pennsylvania’s child welfare system is state-supervised and county-administered. Child welfare services are organized, managed, and delivered by County Children and Youth agencies Crime A violation of a law in which there is injury to the public or a member of the public and a term in jail or prison, and/or a fine as possible penalties. http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/crime 7 Department The Department of Human Services of the Commonwealth Direct contact with children The care, supervision, guidance or control of children, or routine (see definition below) interaction with children. 5 Disparity A discrepancy, inconsistency, or imbalance of services and outcomes. In child welfare, we consider the experience of children of one race or ethnicity to those of another and find disparities in the likelihood and type of placement, the length of stay, and permanency outcomes http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disparity 4 Disproportionality Not proportionate; out of proportion, as in size or number http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/disproportionate 4 Egregious Extraordinary in some bad way; glaring; flagrant http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/egregious 2 Endanger To expose to danger or peril; imperil http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/endangerment 2 Exclusions from child abuse The following are exclusions from the substantiation of child abuse, and not exclusions from reporting: (a) Environmental factors.--No child shall be deemed to be physically or mentally abused based on injuries that result solely from environmental factors, such as inadequate housing, furnishings, income, clothing and medical care, that are beyond the control of the parent or person responsible for the child's welfare with whom the child resides. This subsection shall not apply to any child-care service as defined in this chapter, excluding an adoptive parent. (b) Practice of religious beliefs.--If, upon investigation, the county agency determines that a child has not been provided needed medical or surgical care because of sincerely held religious beliefs of the child's parents or relative within the third degree of consanguinity and with whom the child resides, which beliefs are consistent with those of a bona fide religion, the child shall not be deemed to be physically or mentally abused. In such cases the following shall apply: (1) The county agency shall closely monitor the child and the child's family and shall seek court-ordered medical intervention when the lack of medical or surgical care threatens the child's life or long-term health. (2) All correspondence with a subject of the report and the records of the department and the county agency shall not reference child abuse and shall acknowledge the religious basis for the child's condition. (3) The family shall be referred for general protective services, if appropriate. (4) This subsection shall not apply if the failure to provide needed medical or surgical care causes the death of the child.

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(5) This subsection shall not apply to any child-care service as defined in this chapter, excluding an adoptive parent. (c) Use of force for supervision, control and safety purposes.--Subject to subsection (d), the use of reasonable force on or against a child by the child's own parent or person responsible for the child's welfare shall not be considered child abuse if any of the following conditions apply: (1) The use of reasonable force constitutes incidental, minor or reasonable physical contact with the child or other actions that are designed to maintain order and control. (2) The use of reasonable force is necessary: (i) to quell a disturbance or remove the child from the scene of a disturbance that threatens physical injury to persons or damage to property; (ii) to prevent the child from self-inflicted physical harm; (iii) for self-defense or the defense of another individual; or (iv) to obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects or controlled substances or paraphernalia that are on the child or within the control of the child. (d) Rights of parents.--Nothing in this chapter shall be construed to restrict the generally recognized existing rights of parents to use reasonable force on or against their children for the purposes of supervision, control and discipline of their children. Such reasonable force shall not constitute child abuse. (e) Participation in events that involve physical contact with child.--An individual participating in a practice or competition in an interscholastic sport, physical education, a recreational activity or an extracurricular activity that involves physical contact with a child does not, in itself, constitute contact that is subject to the reporting requirements of this chapter. (f) Child-on-child contact.-- (1) Harm or injury to a child that results from the act of another child shall not constitute child abuse unless the child who caused the harm or injury is a perpetrator. (2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the following shall apply: (i) Acts constituting any of the following crimes against a child shall be subject to the reporting requirements of this chapter: (A) rape as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3121 (relating to rape); (B) involuntary deviate sexual intercourse as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse); (C) sexual assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault); (D) aggravated indecent assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3125 (relating to aggravated indecent assault); (E) indecent assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3126 (relating to indecent assault); and (F) indecent exposure as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. § 3127 (relating to indecent exposure). (ii) No child shall be deemed to be a perpetrator of child abuse based solely on physical or mental injuries caused to another child in the course of a dispute, fight or scuffle entered into by mutual consent. (iii) A law enforcement official who receives a report of suspected child abuse is not required to make a report to the department under section 6334(a) (relating to disposition of complaints received), if the person allegedly responsible for the child abuse is a nonperpetrator child. (g) Defensive force.--Reasonable force for self-defense or the defense of another individual, consistent with the provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. §§ 505 (relating to use of force in self-protection) and 506 (relating to use of force for the protection of other persons), shall not be considered child abuse. 7 Failure to act Something that is NOT done to prevent harm or potential harm to a child. 2 Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) A term used to describe the range of effects that can occur in an individual whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. FASD refers to conditions including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE), Alcohol-related neurodevelopmental disorder, and Alcohol-related birth defects 6 Founded report A child abuse report involving a perpetrator that is made pursuant to this chapter, if any of the following applies: (1) There has been a judicial adjudication based on a finding that a child who is a subject of the report has been abused and the adjudication involves the same factual circumstances involved in the allegation of child abuse. The judicial adjudication may include any of the following: (i) The entry of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere. (ii) A finding of guilt to a criminal charge. (iii) A finding of dependency under 42 Pa.C.S. § 6341 (relating to adjudication) if the court has entered a finding that a child who is the subject of the report has been abused. (iv) A finding of delinquency under 42 Pa.C.S. § 6341 if the court has entered a finding that the child who is the subject of the report has been abused by the child who was found to be delinquent. (2) There has been an acceptance into an accelerated rehabilitative disposition program and the reason for the acceptance involves the same factual circumstances involved in the allegation of child abuse. (3) There has been a consent decree entered in a juvenile proceeding under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters), the decree involves the same factual circumstances involved in the allegation of child abuse and the terms and conditions of the consent decree include an acknowledgment, admission or finding that a child who is the subject of the report has been abused by the child who is alleged to be delinquent. (4) A final protection from abuse order has been granted under section 6108 (relating to relief) , when the child who is a subject of the report is one of the individuals protected under the protection from abuse order and: (i) only one individual is charged with the abuse in the protection from abuse action; (ii) only that individual defends against the charge; (iii) the adjudication involves the same factual circumstances involved in the allegation of child abuse; and (iv) the protection from abuse adjudication finds that the child abuse occurred. (amended by Act 108 of 2013 and Act 44 of 2014) 6 General Protective Services (GPS) Those services and activities provided by each county agency for cases requiring protective services, as defined by the department in regulations. 1 Good faith Sincere belief or motive without any malice or the desire to defraud others 8 Health care providers Any licensed hospital or health care facility, or any individual who is licensed, certified or otherwise regulated to provide health care services under Pennsylvania law. 6 Indicated report (1) Subject to paragraphs (2) and (3), a report of child abuse made pursuant to this chapter if an investigation by the Department or county agency determines that substantial evidence of the alleged abuse by a perpetrator exists based on any of the following: (i) Available medical evidence. (ii) The child protective service investigation. (iii) An admission of the acts of abuse by the perpetrator. (2) A report may be indicated under paragraph (1) (i) or (ii) for any child who is the victim of child abuse, regardless of the number of alleged perpetrators. (3) A report may be indicated under paragraph (1) (i) or (ii) listing the perpetrator as "unknown" if substantial evidence of abuse by a perpetrator exists, but the department or county agency is unable to identify the specific perpetrator. (amended by Act 108 of 2013) 6 Intentionally An act that is done “for the purpose of causing” the type of harm that resulted Birl v. Phil. Elec. Co. 402 Pa. 297 (1960) 2 Investigation An investigation under this section shall include thefollowing: (1) A determination of the safety of or risk of harm to the child or any other child if each child continues to remain in the existing home environment. (2) A determination of the nature, extent and cause of any condition listed in the report. (3) Any action necessary to provide for the safety of the child or any other child in the child 1 s household. (4) The taking of photographic identification of the child or any other child in the child's household, which shall be maintained in the case file. (5) Communication with the department’s service under section 6332 (relating to establishment of Statewide toll-free telephone number) (added by Act 123 of 2013 effective 3/18/14) 6 Knowingly Understanding that the harm is “practically certain to result” Title 18. Pa. C.S. Chapter 3, § 302 (b) (2) 2 Law enforcement official A government employee who is responsible for the prevention, investigation, apprehension, or detention of individuals suspected or convicted of offenses against the criminal laws, including an employee engaged in this activity who is transferred to a supervisory or administrative position; or serving as a probation or pretrial services officer. http://definitions.uslegal.com/l/law-enforcement-officer/ 2 Mandated reporter Someone required by law to report suspected child abuse 5 Neglect The failure of a parent or other person with responsibility for the child to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, and well-being are threatened with harm. https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/define.pdf 1 Parent A biological parent, adoptive parent or legal guardian 6 Parentified behavior When children take on roles and responsibilities usually reserved for adults. The responsibilities that are carried out by the parentified child are traditionally behaviors that provide the parents with specific emotional and instrumental support. http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ875392.pdf 3 Permissive reporter Someone able and encouraged but not required by law to report suspected child abuse. Regardless of professional affiliation, someone who makes a report as a concerned neighbor, friend, witness, or by-stander. 5 Perpetrator A person who has committed child abuse. The following shall apply: (1) The term includes only the following: (i) A parent of the child. (ii) A spouse or former spouse of the child's parent. (iii) A paramour or former paramour of the child's parent. (iv) A person 14 years of age or older and responsible for the child's welfare or having direct contact with children as an employee of child-care services, a school or through a program, activity or service. (v) An individual 14 years of age or older who resides in the same home as the child. (vi) An individual 18 years of age or older who does not reside in the same home as the child but is related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity by birth or adoption to the child. (2) Only the following may be considered a perpetrator for failing to act, as provided in this section: (i) A parent of the child. (ii) A spouse or former spouse of the child's parent. (iii) A paramour or former paramour of the child's parent. (iv) A person 18 years of age or older and responsible for the child's welfare. (v) A person 18 years of age or older who resides in the same home as the child. 7 Psychosomatic A disorder having physical symptoms but originating from mental or emotional causes, such as stomach ulcers http://www.thefreedictionary.com/psychosomatic 3 Reasonable cause to suspect An evaluation you make, based on your knowledge of circumstances, your observations, your familiarity with the individuals, and your feelings about the incident 2 Recent act or failure to act Any act or failure to act committed within two years of the date of the report to the Department or county agency 2 Recklessly Conscious disregard for foreseeable risk Title 18. Pa. C.S. Chapter 3, § 302 (b) (3) 2 Resilience A person’s ability to “bounce back” from hardship or a difficult situation 8 Routine Interaction Regular and repeated contact that is integral to a person's employment or volunteer responsibilities. 6 School A facility providing elementary, secondary or postsecondary educational services. The term includes the following: (1) Any school of a school district. (2) An area vocational-technical school. (3) A joint school. (4) An intermediate unit. (5) A charter school or regional charter school. (6) A cyber charter school. (7) A private school licensed under the act of January 28, 1988 (P.L.24, No.11), known as the Private Academic Schools Act. (8) A private school accredited by an accrediting association approved by the State Board of Education. (9) A nonpublic school. (10) A community college which is an institution now or hereafter created pursuant to Article XIX-A of the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No.14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, or the act of August 24, 1963 (P.L.1132, No.484), known as the Community College Act of 1963. (11) An independent institution of higher education which is an institution of higher education which is operated not for profit, located in and incorporated or chartered by the Commonwealth, entitled to confer degrees as set forth in 24 Pa.C.S. § 6505 (relating to power to confer degrees) and entitled to apply to itself the designation “college” or “university” as provided for by standards and qualifications prescribed by the State Board of Education pursuant to 24 Pa.C.S. Ch. 65 (relating to private colleges, universities and seminaries). (12) A State-owned university. (13) A State-related university. (14) A private school licensed under the act of December 15, 1986 (P.L.1585, No.174), known as the Private Licensed Schools Act. (15) The Hiram G. Andrews Center. (16) A private residential rehabilitative institution as defined in section 914.1-A(c) of the Public School Code of 1949.

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(added by Act 33 and 44 of 2014) School employee An individual who is employed by a school or who provides a program, activity or service sponsored by a school. The term does not apply to administrative or other support personnel unless the administrative or other support personnel have direct contact with children.

23 Pa. C.S. §6303. Definitions

2 Serious bodily injury Bodily injury which 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 2 Serious mental injury A psychological condition, as diagnosed by a physician or licensed psychologist, including the refusal of appropriate treatment, that: renders a child chronically and severely anxious, agitated, depressed, socially withdrawn, psychotic or in reasonable fear that the child’s life or safety is threatened; or seriously interferes with a child's ability to accomplish age¬ appropriate developmental and social tasks 2 Serious physical neglect Any of the following when committed by a perpetrator that endangers a child's life or health, threatens a child's well-being, causes bodily injury or impairs a child's health, development or functioning: (1) A repeated, prolonged or egregious failure to supervise a child in a manner that is appropriate considering the child's developmental age and abilities. (2) The failure to provide a child with adequate essentials of life, including food, shelter or medical care 2 Sexual abuse The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of a child to engage in or assist another person to engage in sexually explicit conduct. A simulation of sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction, including photographing, videotaping, computer depicting or filming of sexually explicit conduct. Any of the following offenses as defined by the crimes code: Rape as defined by section 3121 (relating to rape) Statutory sexual assault as defined by section 3122.1 (relating to statutory sexual assault) Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse as defined by section 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse) Sexual assault as defined by section 3124.1 (relating to sexual assault) Aggravated indecent assault as defined by section 3125 (relating to aggravated indecent assault) Indecent assault as defined by section 3126 (relating to indecent assault) Indecent exposure as defined by section 3127 (relating to indecent exposure) Incest as defined by section 4302 (relating to incest) Prostitution as defined by section 5902 (relating to prostitution and related offenses) Exploitation which includes any of the following: Looking at the sexual or other intimate parts of a child for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire in either person Engaging or encouraging a child to look at the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of arousing or gratifying sexual desire in any person involved. Engaging or encouraging a child to participate in sexually explicit conversation either in person, by telephone, by computer, or by computer aided device. 55 Pa. Code § 3490.4. Definitions. 2 Trauma Trauma occurs when a child experiences an intense event that threatens or causes harm to his or her emotional or physical well-being. When children have a traumatic experience, they react in both physiological and psychological ways. Some children who have experienced a traumatic event will have longer lasting reactions that can interfere with their physical and emotional health. http://www.nctsnet.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/what_is_child_traumatic_stress_0.pdf 2 Unfounded report Any report made pursuant to this chapter unless the report is a "founded report" or an "indicated report" 6

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