Penn State researchers are examining statewide responses to child sexual abuse and sex trafficking, and are offering recommendations for enhancing child protective services in a new report, Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Sarah A. Font, assistant professor of sociology; Dr. Sheridan Miyamoto, assistant professor of nursing and principal investigator at Penn State’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth Center; and Dr. Casey Pinto, assistant professor of public health sciences analyzed more than 2,000 reports filed with Children and Youth Services (CYS) in 10 counties in 2016 and 2017.
The report, published by The Center for Rural Pennsylvania, offers six recommendations for achieving a coordinated response to safeguard children:
Most evaluations focus on deaths, near fatalities, and children in foster care. Sexual abuse cases are poorly represented because abuse is seldom fatal.
Counties are not required to keep records for more than one year in cases deemed unfounded, invalid or screened-out. By deleting files, there is no way to analyze patterns of abuse or review findings from past allegations.
Currently, each victim is assigned a separate report. Issuing a family-level report and using a centralized screening process would eliminate duplicate work and reduce inconsistencies.
Coordinate with Child Advocacy Centers to improve victim services.
Attract qualified staff by evaluating hiring criteria, offering competitive salaries, implementing employee assessments, and ensuring balanced caseloads.Tags: Friday Letter Submission, Publish on February 14