Skip to content

Preventing child abuse: How parents can keep their children safe

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, recognizing the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services reported 4,992 substantiated cases of child abuse in 2022.

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, call the PA ChildLine at 800-932-0313.

Here are some tips for parents on what they can do to keep their children safe.

Teach your kids:

  • Their body belongs to them, and they can say “NO” if someone makes them feel scared or uncomfortable.
  • Trust their instincts. The “uh-oh feeling” (a sick tummy, pounding heartbeat and shakiness) may be early warning signs of danger.
  • They shouldn’t keep secrets from their parents.
  • Who to ask for help if they get lost. Tell them safe grown-ups don’t ask for kids help. They ask other grown-ups.

For parents:

  • Trust your kids. Ask them to tell you more if they share something that concerns you.
  • Monitor their internet usage closely. Adults use the internet to gain the trust of children and lure them into meeting.

Planting pinwheels

Each April, staff from the Center for the Protection of Children at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine plant blue pinwheels in front of Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. The blue pinwheel is a symbol for the prevention of child abuse and intended as a reminder that everyone can play a part in promoting the social and emotional well-being of children and families in the community.

Each pinwheel represents a child who was seen and treated by the Center for the Protection of Children in the last year. In 2023, the team cared for 515 children at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and outpatient clinic sites for suspected physical abuse, neglect or sexual abuse.

The Center for the Protection of Children is an interdisciplinary group of Penn State clinicians and researchers who work to prevent maltreatment, improve reporting of suspected abuse and provide comprehensive care for children who have experienced abuse. The team conducts research to educate the community to better protect children and support them and their families.

What is a mandated reporter?

Anyone can report suspected abuse or neglect, but mandated reporters are required by law to report it. Mandated reporters include:

  • An employee of a health care facility or provider licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health who is engaged in the admission, examination, care or treatment of individuals
  • An emergency medical services provider certified by the Department of Health

A person licensed or certified to practice in any health-related field under the jurisdiction of the Department of State

If you're having trouble accessing this content, or would like it in another format, please email Penn State Health Marketing & Communications.