YORK, Pa. (WHTM) — For all the irreversible harm Jerry Sandusky caused to countless lives, today’s children in Pennsylvania are somewhat better-protected thanks to legislative reforms enacted after the scandal, the head of York County’s Children’s Advocacy Center told abc27 News.
“Now people understand they have a legal obligation to report” child abuse in addition to an ethical one, Deborah Harrison, the center’s executive director said.
Harrison said thanks to laws passed in 2013 and 2014, which took effect by 2015, it’s now clear who in Pennsylvania is a “mandated reporter” — someone who must report suspected abuse.
She said two other things are also now clear: That person’s employer can’t prevent them from reporting abuse, and reporting a concern doesn’t mean you’re certain abuse is taking place.
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“The goal is to get that report made and then let folks who are more experienced” — investigators, in other words — “follow-through,” Harrison said.
“People feel this really really heavyweight: ‘What if I report something false? What if it’s not really the case?'” Harrison said. “Well, you’re not an investigator.”
“If you have a concern about a child, you might be the only person who is really sort of speaking up on behalf of that child,” she added.
Anyone with concerns about potential child abuse should call the commonwealth’s ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313.
She said in addition to legal changes, many organizations have taken their own steps to prevent a Sandusky-type scandal.
“I think you’d be hard-pressed, I hope, now to find a youth-serving organization or a church, or anyone who works with youth in any way, that doesn’t have some strong guidelines in place,” Harrison said.
On the other hand, she said the child advocacy realm could use more resources to meet ever-increasing demand. The pandemic, she said, was particularly problematic “because kids weren’t in front of mandated reporters and so often there was nobody with eyes on these kids, and they were in homes where things were really stressful.”