CHARLESTON - Senate Bill 161 expanding requirements for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect in West Virginia, enacted following the sexual abuse scandal at Penn State University, went into effect on Friday.
The bill requires any adult over 18 who receives a credible disclosure or observes any sexual abuse of a child to report the incident to law enforcement and Child Protective Services for further investigation. Failure to report within 48 hours is a misdemeanor offense subject to up to 30 days in jail and up to $1,000 fine.
SB 161 expanded the list of professions and individuals required to report other forms of suspected child abuse and neglect to include youth camp administrators and camp counselors, employees, coaches and volunteers of any entity providing organized activities for children including youth sports programs and other youth serving organizations and commercial photograph print processors.
In addition, the bill clarifies that mandated reporters must report instances of suspected child abuse and neglect to protective services, not just report the incident to their supervisor. Supervisors may supplement the report or cause an additional report to be made, but this action does not nullify the reporter's mandate to report the suspected abuse or neglect.
"We commend lawmakers for their dedicated leadership in acting quickly to enact reforms in response to the recent events at Penn State," Jim McKay, state coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse West Virginia, said. "SB161 highlights the obligation that we all share to prevent child abuse in West Virginia."
Those who suspect child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or child neglect should contact the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-352-6513. The hotline is available around the clock.
Victims of child abuse may be referred to a local Child Advocacy Center that responds to allegations of child abuse through a team approach and child-focused process to put the needs of child victims first when addressing the investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse cases.
A listing of local centers in West Virginia is available online at http://www.wvcan.org.
Serious physical abuse or sexual abuse should also be reported to the state police & local law enforcement.