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No More Books

March 7, 2008 permalink

Parents who already keep their children away from doctors, hospitals, teachers, daycare, therapists and barbers will now have to avoid libraries as well. Pennsylvania librarians are getting snitch training.




Librarians need to report abuse


Many local librarians didn’t know before December they were state-mandated to report suspected child abuse and neglect until recent changes in the Child Protective Services Law.

“It became effective in 2007 and we were just informed of it at the end of 2007 by our office of commonwealth libraries, and they recognized that we have to have the training for all of our local libraries,” Pottsville Library District Consultant Jean Towle said.

Under the law, anyone coming into contact with children through their career or profession is required to report suspected child abuse or neglect. This applies to education professionals, social service agencies, churches and religious institutions, law enforcement officials, physicians, dentists and even coroners, among others, Angela Liddle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, said.

Failing to report could lead to fines and jail time.

Changes to the law through Act 179 in May 2007 prompted a six-hour training session in January for the Pottsville District library employees, which includes 14 libraries in Schuylkill County and three in Northumberland County.

Jeanne Groeneveld, of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance, led the training for representatives from the 17 local libraries.

“To the best of anyone’s memory, there has been no training initiative where they basically had some type of statewide standard training,” said Angela Liddle, executive director of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. “It was kind of alarming, some librarians didn’t know they were mandated reporters.”

Mandated child abuse reporters are required to call ChildLine so the Schuylkill County Children and Youth Services agency can conduct an investigation into a suspected abuse case, Liddle said. All reporters’ names are kept confidential.

Gerard J. Campbell, executive director of Schuylkill County Children and Youth, said Thursday that from July 2007 to June 2007 the agency received 324 suspected child abuse reports and 43 were substantiated by the agency or court system.

There were no reported deaths in Schuylkill County in 2006 because of child abuse or neglect, Liddle said.

Campbell said that suspected child abuse calls come from mandated reporters, as well as from anonymous callers, however, many of those callers are taking improper advantage of the reporting system.

“A significant percentage of all of our referrals are people embellishing or having child-custody feuds,” Campbell said. “Obviously, we have to screen that out. A lot of energy is spent on stuff that never gets opened.”

After the agency receives a suspected child abuse report, a worker must begin investigating immediately or no less than 24 hours after getting the call. The investigation must be completed within 30 days.

“If we determine that we feel child abuse did occur, we send an indicated report to the state ChildLine central registry,” Campbell said. “There is a system within the department of public welfare that people can appeal our decisions.”

In some of the unsubstantiated cases there is either no truth found or no evidence, Campbell said.

“You may even have a suspicion, but you don’t have a child victim confirming it or no physical abuse. So there are times that I’m sure abuse may have occurred, but there’s nothing we can do because there’s nothing we can hold on to,” he said.

Penalties for knowingly failing to report suspected child abuse or failing to make a referral to the appropriate authorities have been increased to a misdemeanor of the third degree for the first violation and a misdemeanor of the second degree for subsequent violations, according to the May 2007 changes listed at the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance Web site.

“I know of many, many cases where reports were not made and should have been. We hear about it throughout the state. It does happen,” Liddle said.

Towle said the first violation is punishable up to a year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. A second violation is punishable up to two years in jail and up to $5,000 in fines, she said.

Liddle said it is a challenge to train all the people state-mandated as child abuse reporters.

Carol Hull, director at Schuylkill Haven Free Public Library, said she is working on the library’s child abuse mandated reporting policy, which must be reviewed and approved by the library’s board before it is adopted.

“It’s good for them to come up with what their internal process is if someone hears something or sees something ... We would highly recommend and encourage them to do that,” Liddle said.

Source: The REPUBLICAN & Herald