Child abuse laws putting a strain on PA foster care system

Pennsylvania child abuse laws put in place after the Jerry Sandusky scandal are having an impact on the state’s foster care system.

According to a recent paper by the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, the number of reports of suspected child abuse is on the rise, and that’s sending more children to foster care.

Before now, more kids were leaving foster care than entering it.

Sharon Kingsley is foster care supervisor at COBYS Family Services, a private foster care group in Lancaster County.

“We absolutely have seen an increase in the number of kids coming into care with us,” said Kingsley. “Our average daily census has increased over the past several years, the number of referrals we’re receiving, meaning the number of kids in need of foster care homes, has also increased as well.”

Last year Pennsylvania received a record number of reports of suspected child abuse.

Kingsley says 60 percent more children were referred to her in 2014 compared to the year before. Because of the limited number of families available, she can only place less than 10 percent of these children with foster families each year.

Michael Race, communications director for Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, says the increased need for foster care can’t be met without more funding.

“It’s laudable that we’ve done all this work to better protect kids and better detect child abuse,” said Race. “But the other side of that coin is we’ve got to make sure kids who are taken out of abusive environments end up in a safe supportive foster care system and eventually end up in a loving supported family.”

Over the last several years Pennsylvania has developed stricter standards for which kinds of jobs are considered “mandated reporters” — where people are compelled by law to report suspected abuse.

The definition of abuse has also broadened, contributing to removing more children from their homes.

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