Child abuse in pennsylvania is defined by the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) and involves a perpetrator who has an existing relationship as a caregiver or member of the victim's household. Child abuse is investigated by county child welfare agencies. This process is swift and must be completed within 60 days from the date that the initial report is made. The outcome of the child abus investigation is either "indicated" for child abuse or "unfounded" meaning the situation does not fit the defintion. Often cases are "unfounded" because the perpetrator is not a caregiver. This does not mean that a crime was not committed.
Child abuse comes is three types: physical, sexual and mental abuse.
If indicated, the matter remains in a statewide database called Childline. Generally, this database is accessable only to employers who employ people who work with children.
In Pennsylvania many counties have a multi-disciplinary team consisting of law enforcement, prosecutor, children and youth caseworker and forensic interviewer (those trained to speak to children). The criminal investigations may take much longer than the 60 days that child welfare agencies must complete their investigations.
Most sexual abuse related criminal charges may be filed against the perpetrator until the victim reaches age 50. This is often referred to as the statute of limitations.
Sometimes a civil law suit is a remedy available to victims of child abuse, however this may not be one that is right for a particular victim. In order to proceed in the filing of a civil law suit on behalf of a victim of child abuse, the suit must be filed in a timely manner. Children who are victimized before reaching age 18 may bring a law suit up until the victim child reaches age 18. This is the civil statute of limitations. Failure to timely file a civil suit will bar their abilty to recover.
Possible defendants in a civil suit - mandated reporter who fails to report
If a mandated reporter is aware that a perpetrator is suspected to have committed child abuse, and that perpetrator commits child abuse thereafter, the mandated reporter may be liable to that victim.
For example, if a school district is aware that a teacher or other employee has committed sexual assault of a student and fails to report the assault, that is not only potentially a crime, but may expose the school to civil liability if the teacher/employee assault a subsequent child.
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