42,000 PA Child Abuse Calls Unanswered

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42,000 PA Child Abuse Calls Unanswered

Audit blasts Pennsylvania’s Child Abuse

A scathing report from Pennsylvania‘s auditor general indicates one in every five calls to the state’s child abuse hotline is likely to go unanswered.

Thousands of children across the commonwealth could have been left in dangerous situations because of severe deficiencies at ChildLine, the state hotline for reporting suspected child abuse and neglect, according to Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

ChildLine, which is operated by the Department of Human Services, began in 1975.  In the past few years, sweeping changes to the Child Protective Services Law have meant increased call volumes at ChildLine, which operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Among the findings of an audit conducted by DePasquale’s office:

  • 22 percent of all calls in 2015 went unanswered.
  • ChildLine was constantly understaffed in 2015.
  • Nearly one-third of all calls received in 2014 and 2015 were not tracked or documented.
  • Supervisors monitored an extremely small number of calls — only seven, or 0.005 percent — in 2015.

DePasquale didn’t even wait until the audit was finished to release his report.

“While strengthening laws to combat child abuse was a critical achievement, not providing the funding to enforce those laws was a disturbing failure,” DePasquale said in a news release.  “Our report shows the results of that failure — 42,000 unanswered calls in 2015.

The critical problems our audit team has found so far simply cannot wait even another few months until this audit is finished.

“I’m sounding the alarm as early as I can on these issues, because even one unanswered phone call means there could be a child in a life-threatening situation who needs help,” he said.  “The ChildLine system hasn’t been functioning in a way that leaves me any confidence that a child can get help when it is needed.”

Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas responded to the audit report by outlining steps his agency is taking to fix the high rate of unanswered calls.

Dallas said added staff has reduced the unanswered call rate to 12 percent, and he said he expects to lower that to 4 percent in the coming weeks.