Pitt starts online child abuse prevention program

By Dale Shoemaker

Twenty-three days after Act 31 took effect in Pennsylvania, Pitt’s School of Social Work has announced a free, comprehensive, online training program to help prevent child abuse.

The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center developed the course in conjunction with the School of Social Work in response to the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection’s recommendation for improvements to child protection throughout the state, according to a University press release. The course is free, and users can access it 24 hours a day. People who complete the course can receive three continuing education credits, which are required to renew a state social work license.

“All children deserve to live in a safe, protective environment that is free of harm and neglect. In Pennsylvania, high-profile cases of child abuse increased public awareness and prompted a reexamination of the laws protecting children,” Helen Cahalane, clinical associate professor of social work, who helped develop the course, said in an email.

In 2011, the Pennsylvania General Assembly made a series of recommendations to amend the Child Protective Services Law, Cahalane said. The legislature passed 23 bills that were signed into law beginning in December 2013, many of which — including Act 31 — went into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

Anyone applying for a license or certification through the Pennsylvania Department of State must complete, “at least three hours of approved child abuse recognition and reporting training,” according to Act 31.

Former Gov. Tom Corbett approved Act 31 on April 15, 2014. It took effect Dec. 31, 2014, and requires all health-related professionals licensed by the Department of State to complete training on mandated reporting effective with licensure renewal in 2015. The course, which allows individuals to fulfill this requirement, went live on Nov. 14, 2014. 

The online course, “Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse: Mandated and Permissive Reporting in Pennsylvania,” is available to professionals and the general public in Pennsylvania. Cahalane said 82,000 individuals have completed the course as of this week.

According to Cahalane, individuals who complete the course are trained to identify child abuse, determine when and how to report suspected child abuse and follow up after reporting child abuse.

Abuse or neglect affects children of all ages, backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses, she said.

“Protecting children from abuse and neglect is a community responsibility. Increased recognition of the warning signs of abuse and neglect and taking active steps for both intervention and prevention can save a child’s life,” Cahalane said. 

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