If you want to work with kids in Pennsylvania, there are certain administrative hoops you have to jump through, but these are in place to help ensure the safety and well-being of the state's children. Certain people intending to work with or provide services to children in Pennsylvania are required by law to get a child abuse clearance, which reveals whether they are listed in the Pennsylvania statewide database as a perpetrator of child abuse.
Child Abuse Definition
In Pennsylvania, child abuse is defined by the Child Protective Services Law, which forms part of the Pennsylvania Code, as intentionally, knowingly or recklessly doing any of the following:
- Causing bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act;
- Fabricating, feigning or intentionally exaggerating or inducing a medical symptom or disease which results in a potentially harmful medical evaluation or treatment to the child through any recent act;
- Causing or substantially contributing to serious mental injury to a child through any act or failure to act or a series of such acts or failures to act;
- Causing sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any act or failure to act;
- Creating a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act;
- Creating a likelihood of sexual abuse or exploitation of a child through any recent act or failure to act; or
- Causing serious physical neglect of a child.
For example, if a child in your care had an asthma attack and you did not give him his inhaler, leading to a worsening of his symptoms and admittance to hospital, you could be found guilty of child abuse for a failure to act.
Engaging in any of the following acts is also considered to be child abuse:
- Kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing or cutting a child in a manner that endangers the child;
- Unreasonably restraining or confining a child, based on consideration of the method, location or the duration of the restraint or confinement;
- Forcefully shaking a child under one year of age;
- Forcefully slapping or otherwise striking a child under one year of age;
- Interfering with the breathing of a child;
- Causing a child to be present at a location while a violation of 18 Pa.C.S. § 7508.2 (relating to operation of methamphetamine laboratory) is occurring, provided that the violation is being investigated by law enforcement; or
- Causing bodily injury to a child through any recent act or failure to act.
For example, if you punish a child under your supervision by locking her in a room for two hours without water, you may be found guilty of child abuse.
Child abuse also includes leaving a child unsupervised with an individual (who is not the child's parent) whom you know or reasonably should have known is required to register by law as a Tier II or Tier III sexual offender (where the victim of the sexual offense was under 18 years of age when the crime was committed), has been determined by law to be a sexually violent predator, or has been determined by law to be a sexually violent delinquent child.
Read More: Is Spanking Child Abuse?
Who Needs a Clearance?
Employees having contact with children, volunteers having contact with children, foster and adoptive parents and school employees (whether governed by the Public School Code or not) all need child abuse clearances in Pennsylvania.
The following employees having contact with children require a child abuse clearance:
- An employee of childcare services;
- A self-employed provider of childcare services in a family childcare home;
- Anyone age 14 or older who is applying for or taking a paid position as an employee with a program, activity or service as a person responsible for the child’s welfare or having direct contact with children; and
- Any person seeking to provide childcare services under contract with a childcare facility or program.
If the program, activity or service is an internship, externship, work-study, co-op or similar program with a school, the clearances must be obtained by an adult applying for or holding a paid position, who the employer identifies as the child’s supervisor and the person responsible for the child’s welfare during the child's participation in the program.
Any person who is age 18 or older who lives for at least 30 days in one calendar year in a home subject to supervision or licensure under the Public Welfare Code (such as a family living home, a community home for individuals with an intellectual disability or a host home for children) also requires child abuse clearance. This does not include a person with an intellectual disability or chronic psychiatric disability receiving services in a home. Any person who applies to the department for a certificate of compliance or a registration certificate to provide child daycare in a residence is required to include criminal history and child abuse record information for every person 18 years of age or older who lives in the home for at least 30 days in one calendar year.
A foster parent, an adoptive parent and any individual age 18 or older who lives in the home of a foster or prospective adoptive parent for at least 30 days in one calendar year is required to get child abuse clearances in Pennsylvania. A prospective adoptive parent includes any person seeking approval and any person who is approved and awaiting placement of a child into his home.
Clearances must be submitted to the employer, organization or department before the role commences.
Responsibility for Welfare of Child
Two factors are crucial in determining whether an employee or volunteer requires a child abuse clearance in Pennsylvania. The first question is: is that person responsible for the welfare of a child? The second is: does that person have direct contact with a child?
A person may be deemed responsible for the welfare of a child if she provides permanent or temporary care, supervision, mental health diagnosis or treatment, training or control of a child in lieu of parental care, supervision or control. Generally, if a person is acting in lieu of or on behalf of a parent, she is required to obtain all necessary clearances.
Direct contact includes care, supervision, guidance or control of a child or routine interaction with a child. Routine interaction is defined as regular and repeated contact that is a fundamental part of a person's responsibilities.
How Do You Get Clearances in PA?
You can apply for a child abuse clearance in Pennsylvania electronically or on paper. It's quicker to do it electronically, but if you don't have internet access, you can complete and send a CY113 form to ChildLine and Abuse Registry, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, PO Box 8170, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8170. Make sure you carefully read the instructions, which are on the last page of the application, before completing the form to avoid errors and subsequent processing delays. Results of your clearance will be mailed to your address within 14 days of the date your application was received by the ChildLine Verification Unit.
Application is recommended through the Child Welfare Information Solution self-service portal, which sends results of the clearance electronically through an automated system.
How much do clearances cost in PA? As of September 2018, the cost of a child abuse history clearance is $13. However, the cost for volunteers may be waived once within a five-year period. Some employers choose to pay for these clearances and can set up business accounts to make payment.
If you already have a child abuse clearance obtained for employment purposes, you can use this to serve in a volunteer capacity for any program or service, provided the clearance was obtained within the previous five years.
If you need a paper copy of your Pennsylvania child abuse history clearance, you can indicate this on the "Current Address" screen of your online application. Alternatively, you may log in to your Child Welfare Account to get a copy. Go to the "PA Child Abuse History Clearance Account" screen where you can view and print submitted and/or processed applications for five years following the date of the initial submission of your application.
You must renew your child abuse clearance every five years if you are still in a role that requires this by law.
Other Clearances Required in Pennsylvania
As well as a child abuse clearance, employees having contact with children, foster and adoptive parents and school employees (whether governed by the Public School Code or not) are required to get a report of criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police and a fingerprint-based federal criminal history submitted through the Pennsylvania State Police or its authorized agent (FBI). A fingerprint-based background check creates a complete criminal profile of the applicant through both FBI and state criminal databases.
A report of criminal history can be obtained by submitting an online request or sending a Criminal History Request Form to Pennsylvania State Police Central Repository - RCPU, 1800 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9758. If you submit an online request, you receive results immediately. As of September 2018, the fee for a report of criminal history costs $22, but there is no fee if you your contact with children is as a volunteer.
To register for an FBI background check and start the fingerprinting process, you must first register with IDEMIA (also known as IdentoGo or MorphoTrust). You can then have your fingerprints taken at an IdentoGO site. You may be wondering, how long do fingerprint background checks take? The length of time varies, as the fingerprint-based background check is a multi-step process.
It's not necessary to schedule an appointment to be fingerprinted, but you do have to pre-register with IdentoGO, either online at www.identogo.com or by calling (1-844) 321-2101. As part of the registration process, you need a service code from your employer. For example, the service code for a childcare services/program employee or contractor is 1KG738, and the service code for a Department of Human Services volunteer (which includes all volunteer services) is 1KG6ZJ. Prospective foster and adoptive parents also need service codes: 1KG71B and 1KG72V, respectively.
At the fingerprinting location (you can find your closest one on the IdentoGO website), you must present identification from the list of acceptable documents, which includes a state-issued driver's licence, a federal, state or local government agency issued ID card and a valid U.S. passport. The actual fingerprinting process should take no longer than 10 minutes, however you may have to wait if you don't schedule an appointment in advance. The fee for the fingerprint-based background check is $22.60, payable to IDEMIA.
Volunteers having contact with children are required to obtain a child abuse clearance and a report of criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police, but they are not required to obtain a fingerprint-based federal criminal history if they have been a continuous resident of Pennsylvania for the past 10 years. If this exemption applies, you must swear or affirm in writing that you are not disqualified from service based upon a conviction of an offense under §6344 of the Pennsylvania Code, such as rape, kidnapping, unlawful restraint and stalking.
- Pennsylvania Child Welfare Information Solution: FAQ
- KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov: Get a Clearance
- KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov: Employees Having Contact With Children Frequently Asked Questions
- KeepKidsSafe.org: Foster/Adoptive Parents and Adult Household Members Frequently Asked Questions
- KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov: School Employees Governed by the Public School Code Frequently Asked Questions
- KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov: School Employees Not Governed by the Public School Code Frequently Asked Questions
- PA.gov: Pennsylvania State Police Request a Criminal History Record
- KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov: IdentoGO Fingerprint Service Code Form
- Pennsylvania General Assembly: Chapter 63 Child Protective Services
- KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov: Volunteers Frequently Asked Questions
Claire is a qualified lawyer and specialized in family law before becoming a full-time writer. She has written for many digital publications, including The Washington Post, Forbes, Vice and HealthCentral.