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Format: 04/24/2014
Format: 04/24/2014

News

AGH Child Abuse Expert Addresses Senate Hearing Today

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

In the wake of child sexual abuse allegations being levied against former Penn State University football coach Jerry Sandusky, a hearing took place today before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families to determine how well federal laws - most specifically reporting requirements - are working to protect children.

Anthony Mannarino, Ph.D., an internationally recognized child psychologist and Director of the Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH) in Pittsburgh participated in the hearing, providing written testimony about the ramifications of child abuse and steps Congress can take to better protect children.

Organized by U.S. Senators, Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Children and Families, Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), the hearing was intended to examine existing gaps in the legal system and consider proposals to improve reporting requirements.

According to Senator Mikulski’s press announcement, the hearing follows the troubling allegations at Penn State University and the failure to report the alleged crimes to law-enforcement authorities. Currently, only 18 states require all adults to report suspected child abuse.

Dr. Mannarino is a leading authority on childhood trauma and abuse who has provided clinical services to traumatized children and their families for more than 25 years. He is the past president of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and was named to the American Psychological Association’s Presidential Task Force on Child and Adolescent Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in 2008.

In his testimony before the Senate, Dr. Mannarino suggested more consistent mandated reporting laws can only help authorities better safeguard children in abusive situations. Mandated reporting refers to the requirement to report child abuse to a local child protective service (CPS) organization, appropriate state agency, or the police.

“Mandated reporting laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in important ways. In most jurisdictions, suspicion of abuse or reason to believe that abuse has occurred is the threshold criterion for a mandated report. Some states require mandatory reports only when the reporter is acting in his or her professional capacity, for example as a psychologist treating patients. In other jurisdictions, a reporter is mandated to report in any circumstance that a reasonable suspicion of child abuse arises. Given these differences, healthcare professionals and other mandated reporters must become familiar with the statutes in their individual jurisdictions,” Dr. Mannarino writes.

He said another key challenge is that jurisdictions vary tremendously in their ability to investigate alleged child abuse, primarily related to the amount of resources that are allocated to child welfare agencies.

In summary, Dr. Mannarino advised that congress can take a number of additional critical actions to better protect children from abuse and neglect, including;

• increased federal investment in research to build the evidence base for effective prevention and treatment of child abuse
• more support for the development and dissemination of evidence-based interventions that have been shown to prevent child abuse and neglect.
• continued support for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which was authorized by Congress in 2000 as part of the Children’s Health Act.

Dr. Mannarino and his colleagues have been principle investigators for numerous federally funded studies examining the impact and treatment of child sexual abuse.

Together with Judith Cohen, MD, a child psychiatrist at AGH, Dr. Mannarino is credited with developing trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) an innovative and effective treatment for traumatized children that has become a standard of care for children across the United States and in several countries around the world. They are also co-authors of the book “Treating Trauma and Traumatic Grief in Children and Adolescents”, which provides an overview of the TF-CBT approach and how the model can be adapted to treat children of different ages and cultural backgrounds.

The AGH Center for Traumatic Stress in Children and Adolescents is a program that helps children and families cope with traumatic events, such as child abuse, community or domestic violence, terrorism, war and natural disasters. The center’s team of psychiatrists and psychologists care for hundreds of children annually and have played critical roles in assisting disaster relief efforts around the country, including September 11, Hurricane Katrina and the crash of USAir Flight 427, among other events.

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Editors Note: The complete transcript of Dr. Mannarino’s Senate testimony is available by calling 412-330-4430. 
 

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