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Politics & Government

911-Style Hotline For Child Abuse Debated

A few local lawmakers are teaming up with a Democrat from Luzerne County in an effort to make it as easy to report child abuse as it is to report a fire. 

The Child Abuse Hotline Bill has made it out of the State Senate Aging and Youth Committee and is now before the Communications and Technology Committee. Senate Bill 26 would create a three digit, toll-free number similar to 911 that would be reserved for reporting child abuse.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for those that suspect something is wrong to reach out to the department of welfare and help protect that child,” said lead sponsor John Yudichak (D-Luzerne County).

The number would be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week with “trained professionals,” according to Yudichack.

The complaints would then be sent off to the proper local authorities for investigation. 

“They are going to make sure there is discretion, they are going to make sure that it is investigated," Yudichak said. "There is going to be confidence … that they are going to do everything they can to protect children.”

The legislation was one of several bills recommended by the special Task Force on Child Protection, which released its report earlier this year.

“It’s very important that we come together in a bipartisan way to make sure that we do everything we can to protect children from abuse,” Yudichak said.

The legislation calls for the number to be established by the beginning of next year. It does not specify the cost of running the number.

State Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Allegheny County) has introduced another bill stemming from the task force’s recommendations. Senate Bill 24 would establish a statewide database for protective services that would include child abuse reports and the names of children in need of general protective services. 

“This database will provide a clearing house that will allow various agencies to provide and share information,” said Vulakovich. “These agencies will be able to more easily access information that may be currently missed when reviewing reports of suspected abuses cases.”

The reports placed into the database would include information relating to the nature of the complaint, information on the family, services provided, legal actions initiated, and other details required by the Department of Public Welfare.