Children and youth organizations see surge in calls when school starts
HARRISBURG, Pa. —
As kids head back to school, a government agency says they see a surprising surge in calls for service and help. Children and Youth Services will be extra busy in September because more mandatory reporters are seeing kids who have been out of school for the past 10 weeks.
“We believe that it is absolutely imperative that people are looking out for the safety of our children,” said Annmarie Keiser with Dauphin County Children and Youth Services.
Keiser says her agency sees a 20 percent uptick in reported cases of abuse or neglect in September, averaging about 600 calls in just that month.
“It's definitely a challenge to hear some of the stories that we hear,” she said.
The reason for the increased numbers is simple, more eyeballs on the kids. From teachers and administrators at the schools to school bus drivers and daycare providers, the kids are under more scrutiny.
“If you have reason to believe that you suspect abuse, or you believe that child safety is at risk, we would encourage folks to report,” Keiser said.
Another factor for the rise in calls came with a law change that went into effect in 2015. Act 31 of 2014 increased the amount of mandatory reporters, required three hours of child abuse training and streamlined the reporting process.
“Now it is they do not pass go, you report immediately and then let the state sort out the pieces,” said Dr. Fred Withum, Cumberland Valley School District Superintendent.
If anyone suspects abuse, the first step is to call the ChildLine hotline. Keiser encourages the calling reporters to gather as much information about the child and situation as possible.
“We would then receive that referral. We would look at the information. We would look at the history of that case and then we will determine the next step,” she said.
Whatever the next step, the child’s success is always the goal.
“The hope is that the child would be safe, that the family will be stable, that they are in an environment that they can thrive,” Keiser said.