When it comes to fighting child abuse, the first step to ending a bad situation is letting someone with the means to help know it's happening.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's (DPW) annual report, approximately 62 percent of perpetrators of substantiated child abuse in 2011 had a parental relationship with their victims. In total, a full 75 percent of abuse cases were perpetrated by a relative.
This means that of the 3,408 substantiated reports that year, approximately 2,556 were committed by those best positioned to see the signs of abuse.
Outside of the home, those who work with children on a daily basis become the front line in child abuse recognition and reporting and many of those people are the men and women employed in our schools.
Despite this, in 2011, only 11 percent, or 368, of the substantiated reports of child abuse originated from schools.
In July of 2012, Pennsylvania passed Act 126, an amendment to the public school code creating mandatory child abuse recognition and reporting training for all school employees and contractors who interact directly with children.
Under the act, school personnel are required to undergo a minimum of three hours of training every five years on:
"Recognition of the signs of abuse and sexual misconduct and reporting requirements for suspected abuse and sexual misconduct in this Commonwealth."
"Provisions of the act of December 12, 1973, known as the "Professional Educator Discipline Act," including mandatory reporting requirements."
"The school entity's policies related to reporting of suspected abuse and sexual misconduct."
"Maintenance of professional and appropriate relationships with students."
The Warren County School District (WCSD) is currently working to implement the training.
"WCSD has started the initiative to facilitate child abuse training sessions to employees," Director of Pupil Services Patricia Hawley-Horner said.
The training could be a step toward alleviating a problem that is all to real in Warren County. The 2011 DPW report shows above average statistics for child abuse in the county.
The 2011 report shows 14 percent of all child abuse reports are eventually substantiated state-wide. This translates to 1.2 children out of every 1,000 being a substantiated victim of abuse. In Warren County, 22 percent of all reports are substantiated and 2.8 out of every 1,000 children is a victim of abuse, That's more than double the state-wide average rate of abuse.
Training at the school district is already underway.
According to Hawley-Horner, requirements for district paraprofessional training began on Jan. 22.
In March, district administrators and support personnel will be scheduled to undergo training while teacher training is scheduled for August.
To implement the training, the school district is utilizing the aid of the experts at A SAFE Place, Inc., a Pennsylvania Office of the Victim Advocate recognized county victim assistance program.
In the wake of the Penn State abuse scandal, the Pennsylvania General Assembly is working on further child abuse legislation including a number of bills currently making their way through the legislature.