Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Responds to ChildLine Audit

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Yesterday Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Ted Dallas responded to the Auditor General’s (AG) audit of ChildLine, the commonwealth’s hotline to report suspected child abuse:

“The Wolf Administration shares the AG’s commitment to ensuring the safety of Pennsylvania’s children. We also appreciate the AG’s acknowledgement of how seriously DHS took the interim report recommendations and implemented changes that could help save children’s lives. We have addressed the AG’s concerns with ChildLine and, as we have been doing since day one, will continue to improve processes and practices.

The department inherited significant challenges in January 2015 and DHS was inundated with calls and clearance applications that the department was not adequately staffed or funded to handle. From 2014 to 2015, the department experienced a:

  • 14 percent increase in calls to ChildLine from 164,911 to 188,357;
  • 39 percent increase in reports of suspected child abuse; and
  • 162 percent increase in clearance requests from 587,545 to 1,536,921.

Since my first day as secretary at DHS, we have worked to rectify the issues at ChildLine, the result of implementing 24 new child protection laws, and we have made significant progress. As noted in the audit, performance at ChildLine suffered in early 2015.

Specifically:

  • Processing time for child abuse clearances peaked at 26 days – well above the 14 days required by law;
  • 48 percent of clearances were processed on time; and
  • 43 percent of calls to ChildLine were abandoned or deflected.

DHS acted immediately to address these issues by adding staff and improving training. The ChildLine staffing complement has steadily increased since February 2015. In addition, DHS has implemented technology changes that properly record all calls, regardless of the nature of the call, and make it easier for staff to receive and process calls.

As a result, DHS’ data today reads much differently:

  • Clearances are processed on average in 1.27 days, well below the statutorily required 14 days;
  • 100 percent of clearances are processed on time;
  • The abandoned or deflected rate is down to below 2 percent; and
  • 80 percent of clearance requests and 42 percent of child abuse referrals are submitted electronically, reducing paperwork for the staff and the public.

“Protecting the commonwealth’s children from abuse and neglect is a critical part of our mission at DHS, it is a priority of the Wolf administration, and we agree with the AG that even one neglected or abused child in the commonwealth is one too many,” said Dallas.

DHS encourages individuals to visit www.KeepKidsSafe.pa.gov to get more information on the changes to the law, mandated reporting information and training, and clearances.


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