February 20, 2014

False Reports of Child Abuse Now Illegal

Senior Counsel Dee Black answers questions and assists members with legal issues in Pennsylvania. He and his wife homeschooled their children. Read more >>

As of January 1, 2014, intentionally or knowingly making a false report of child abuse is now a misdemeanor of the second degree in Pennsylvania. Approved by Governor Tom Corbett on December 18, 2013, Senate Bill 28 included this provision as part of other revisions to the law prohibiting intimidation, retaliation, and obstruction in child abuse cases. A person convicted of a misdemeanor of the second degree is subject to a fine not to exceed $5,000 and imprisonment of not more than two years.

Prohibiting false reports of child abuse and neglect is one of three legislative proposals Home School Legal Defense Association recommends to decrease the number of unwarranted investigations of homeschooling families. HSLDA also believes that in the case of an anonymous tip, the law should provide that there be corroborating evidence of the alleged abuse or neglect before a full investigation is conducted. No court order for an investigation should be issued on the basis of an anonymous tip. Finally, in order to comply with federal law, each state should adopt the provisions of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which requires social workers to inform the person being investigated of the allegations made against him at the initial time of contact and requires social workers to be trained in protecting the constitutional rights of families during an investigation.

The Pennsylvania Legislature’s action to criminalize false reports of child abuse is a much welcomed step in the right direction, but enactment of additional family protections is needed.

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