The Department of Human Services announced Wednesday the release of the 2021 Annual Child Protective Services Report, which includes statewide and county-level data relevant to the child welfare system. DHS also 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.
“On behalf of the Wolf Administration, I want to thank all of the child welfare workers and mandated and permissive reporters throughout Pennsylvania who work every day to ensure the safety of the commonwealth’s children,” said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead.
“Throughout the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, ChildLine continued taking calls and county and DHS caseworkers continued investigating reports. Caseworkers ensured families continued receiving the services they needed. The work these child welfare workers do every day ensures that Pennsylvania children can grow up safely and cared for. The value of their work is immeasurable.”
The child welfare system in Pennsylvania is state-supervised and county-administered with both having vital roles in the protection of children. DHS provides funding, oversight, and technical assistance to each county agency. DHS is also responsible for the licensure of public and private child welfare agencies and the investigation of complaints received regarding these agencies.
DHS is committed to addressing and understanding the impact of racial disparities in the child welfare system, and for the first time included statewide race and ethnicity data for substantiated victims and perpetrators in the annual report.
Addressing racial disparities requires recognition of the points at which bias can enter the system and how inequities at each point can impact the trajectory of children and families as they move through the system. This information will continue to be collected and refined for future reports for DHS to make decisions in the best of interest of children and families in Pennsylvania.
DHS is also responsible for oversight and enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies that guide the provision of child welfare services at the county level by each of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania. This includes the Child Protective Services Law, which defines child abuse and incidents in which Child Protective Services (CPS) reports are necessary.
The CPS reports DHS received rose by about 15 percent between 2020 and 2021. This increase was anticipated, largely due to the decline of reports observed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the reduced contact between children and mandated reporters during that time.
Reports of suspected child abuse made by mandated reporters saw increases in 2021, again due to the decrease during 2020, but these reports are not fully back to pre-pandemic levels. The most significant change was observed for school employees. In 2020, 5,780 school employees made CPS reports, as opposed to 12,990 in 2019. In 2021, this number rose, with 8,313 total CPS reports being made by school employees.
Pennsylvania saw a decrease in child fatalities substantiated as the result of child abuse between 2020 and 2021 but saw an increase in child near fatalities substantiated as the result of child abuse. In 2020, 73 children died, and 115 children nearly died as a result of child abuse. In 2021, 57 children died, and 136 children nearly died as a result of child abuse.
“It is all of our responsibility to stop child abuse and neglect, and taking proactive, deliberate action now can prevent tragedies in the future,” said Acting Secretary Snead. “One child’s death is too many. I urge anyone who has concerns for the safety of the children in their life to contact ChildLine immediately.”
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.