Doctors, school nurses and others required by law to report suspected child abuse said they want better protection from retaliation by people they report, a panel of health care professionals told the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection on Thursday.
If parents are investigated soon after taking their children to the doctor, they often suspect the physician as filing the report, they said.
Dr. Amy Nevin, a pediatrician at Hilltop Community Healthcare Center in Beltzhoover, told members of the task force meeting at Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville that she has had to call police after receiving threatening phone calls from parents she reported.
“It can be scary,” Nevin said.
Lawmakers created the task force in December to study Pennsylvania’s child abuse protection laws and suggest changes in the wake of child sexual abuse charges filed against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
Nevin was one of about a dozen people to address the 11-member panel, appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett and legislative leaders. It is required to submit recommendations to legislators by Nov. 30.
The panel is chaired by Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, a former state legislator and former county judge, and includes Bill Strickland, president and CEO of Manchester Bidwell Corp., and Rachel Berger, a member of the Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital.
The experts also suggested that the board consider recommending better training for county employees whose job it is to identify child abuse; increase communication between those workers and family doctors; and eliminate “a discrepancy” in the definition of child abuse across school settings.
Under current law, “serious bodily injury” is one offense that constitutes abuse of a child by a school employee, but the law does not define a serious injury, leaving it open to interpretation, medical experts said. Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, has introduced a measure to eliminate the discrepancy. He said the task force is an important tool in battling child abuse.
“It’s so important to bring a bigger focus on this issue,” Fontana said. “We’re dedicated to finding a solution, so these things don’t happen in the future like they happened in the past.”