Dozens of people who work with children in Centre County spent Tuesday learning about how they are hurt and what to do about it.
Centre County Children and Youth Services honored Child Abuse Awareness Month with the mandated reporters workshop, a free class teaching what to report, how to report it and how the legal process of protecting kids works. About 80 people registered, including police officers, preschool teachers, day care providers, school district employees, nurses, Boy Scout leaders and more.
“It’s a different group than last year,” said Mary Ann Zimmerman. “We’ve very pleased with this many people coming out to get information.”
Some of the information was hard to hear, like the fact that about 30 children die in Pennsylvania every year as a result of abuse or neglect. Most of them are younger than 5. Many were repeat victims of abuse. In 2012, 59 percent were killed by someone in a parental role.
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Some of it was not easy to look at, such as pictures that showed how to tell if a child was beaten with an object like a ruler or a belt.
“I know these are hard to see,” said Zimmerman. “But this is what we are dealing with.”
The most important thing, she stressed, was not to be afraid to come forward. Mandated reporters are bound by law to speak up when they suspect something.
“I will never tell you not to call it in if you have a concern about a case,” she said. “We have to act on any information we’re given. We might have had other calls, other pieces of the puzzle. You may have the one piece we need.”
Likewise, she said, a call that doesn’t seem to bear results now may be part of a growing file CYS might use later on to get a child help.
The workshop came the day after Gov. Tom Corbett signed new legislation that will help pay for such training, as well as child advocacy centers such as the one Centre County opened two months ago.
Patrolman Todd Walter, of the Bellefonte Police Department, was one of those taking the class.
“There is a lot of child abuse that goes on that isn’t reported because people just don’t know what to do,” he said. “People think it’s not their place. But it is. It’s up to them.”