The legislation broadens the definition of who is a mandatory reporter of child abuse and how that information must be reported. As of December 31, 2014, 23 Pa.C.S. § 6311(a), (b)(1)(III) and (b)(IV) requires virtually all persons involved in juvenile treatment, rehabilitation and supervision (i.e. therapists, clinicians, counselors and staff) to report to Childline if a youth 14 years of age or older discloses that he or she committed past child abuse. This was done through Senate Bill 21.
The new law particularly affects clients in court-ordered, sex offender treatment, as these clients are generally required to disclose past offenses to progress through program. These clients will be forced to invoke their right against self-incrimination and not graduate their treatment program, or disclose past conduct and face prosecution arising from the mandated report. While the disclosures themselves are suppressible, the Commonwealth can prosecute with the known victim.
These changes to the mandatory reporting laws will certainly result in less effective treatment for juveniles. Juvenile defenders will be required to give effective advice to clients in treatment, which will make it more difficult for children to complete sex offender treatment. Because the law essentially eviscerates patient-therapist privilege, relationships between clients and therapists will be damaged. The Juvenile Defender Association of Pennsylvania is working on responses to the legislation and can provide resources to juvenile defenders. For more information, please contact: