Reports of child abuse jumped 8 percent in 2017

Among reports were 40 fatalities, 11 of those in Philadelphia

Pat Loeb
May 31, 2018 - 6:52 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania saw an increase in the number of child abuse cases last year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' annual report on child protective services.

There were more than 7,000 substantiated reports of child abuse — about 8 percent more than in 2016. 

Amy Grippi, chief of staff of the Office of Children, Youth and Families, said part of that stems from reforms to child abuse laws that took effect in 2015, prompted by the Jerry Sandusky case, "which expanded the definition of child abuse."

"[It] expanded who can be considered a perpetrator of abuse and it also expanded who are considered to be mandated reporters," she explained.

Grippi said another factor is the opioid epidemic, which was cited as the cause of one in four general protective service reports.

Among the cases, there were 40 fatalities, 11 of them in Philadelphia. 

"The most common type of abuse that the state substantiates is sexual abuse, followed by bodily injury," Grippi said, adding that the leading cause of child abuse fatalities and near fatalities is bodily injury inflicted by a parent.

"We have a team looking at root causes to reduce the incidence of child abuse in general, but specifically fatalities and near fatalities," she said.

Frank Cervone, executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates, said the report shows the city and state must invest in preventive services.

"We have to keep kids from coming into the system by helping them and their families respond to the their needs," he added. "We all have to step up, to embrace the need of children and families for more preventive care."