Penn State's mandated reporter training, policy revised in response to new law

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Due to recent changes in Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law (CPSL), Penn State has updated policy AD72, which outlines responsibilities for reporting child abuse and is applicable to all Penn State employees, volunteers, and independent contractors. Important changes have been made to definitions within the policy, as well as to the required reporting process and training requirements.

To make employees aware of all of the new policy changes, the Building a Safe Penn State: Reporting Child Abuse training has been updated for 2015. Per AD72, all University employees, volunteers and independent contractors who are interacting with minors are required to complete the training prior to starting work. Those not working with children must complete the training within 30 days of commencing employment.

In addition, there have been some important changes to the required training cycle. Because of the significant changes in the law, all employees will be required to complete the new training in 2015, but employees who do not work with children will then only be required to take the training every three years. Those working with minors will still be required to take the training annually.

Also, training will now be required by anniversary date rather than calendar year. "The new training is a great resource for employees to become aware of their new responsibilities under the law and AD72," said Sandy Weaver, youth programs compliance specialist in the University’s Office of Ethics and Compliance. "Although employees who took the training in 2014 aren’t required to take the training until their anniversary date, they are accountable for knowing their new responsibilities now, so we recommend taking the new training as soon as possible."

In accordance with the law, the new policy also eliminates chain of command reporting for incidents of suspected child abuse, requiring instead that reports be made directly to ChildLine. For internal reporting purposes, employees must then email immediately after making a report.

To help employees learn more about the new policy, several new resources are available on the Office of Ethics and Compliance website, including an "Am I a Mandated Reporter?" checklist and a flow chart detailing the new reporting process.

New law brings changes

To reflect the new law, policy AD72 now includes several new categories in the definition of "mandated reporter." Since institutions of higher education are now considered "schools" under the law, Penn State employees who have contact with children are now considered "school employees" and are included in the list of mandated reporters. Also, any individual supervised or managed by a mandated reporter who has direct contract with children also now is considered a mandated reporter. Library employees who have contact with children have been added to the definition as well.

The definition of child abuse also has been updated to include several new categories, as well as lowering the threshold of what is considered abuse. For example, "serious physical injury" has been changed to "bodily injury." Previously, to be considered abuse, a child had to suffer "severe pain" or "lasting impairment." The standard for "bodily injury" is much lower, requiring only "substantial pain" or "impairment of physical condition," whether lasting or temporary. Also, for bodily injury and sexual abuse, it is no longer necessary to prove imminent risk or actual occurrence of such acts, only the "likelihood" that such events could occur.

"Keeping kids safe is a top priority and a shared responsibility. Knowing when and how to intervene is the first step in protecting children from the harmful effects of child maltreatment," said Jennie Noll, professor of human development and family studies and director of Penn State’s Network on Child Protection and Well-Being. "AD72 provides clear language and helpful tools designed to guide the Penn State community in helping maltreated children get the help and care they need."

Last Updated February 02, 2015