. DHS:Frequently Asked Questions
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DHS, 1515 Arch St.,
Philadelphia, PA 19102


Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I report abuse or neglect?
    Suspected abuse or neglect of children may be reported 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at (215) 683-6100 (also TTY), or to the State Hotline, at (800) 932-0313. Reports can be made anonymously. However, when the reporter does give a name, it is not revealed to anyone. This practice is strictly enforced.
    2. What are the different types of abuse/neglect?
      Physical Abuse: Is non-accidental, serious physical injury of a child, including beatings, burns, bites, strangulation, or immersion in scalding water resulting in bruises, welts, broken bones, scars, or serious internal injuries. Watch for unexplained bruises, bites, black eyes, broken bones, fading bruises, or other noticeable marks.

      Sexual Abuse: Is sexual contact between a child and an adult or older child for the sexual gratification of the offender. It can include both physical and non-physical contact, and it is always forced. Watch for a child's difficulty in walking or sitting, a refusal to change for gym or participate in physical activity, or demonstration of bizarre, over-sophistication, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior.

      Emotional Abuse: Is a pattern of behavior that attacks a child's emotional development and sense of self-worth. Watch for extremely compliant, passive, aggressive, or demanding behaviors, or inappropriately adult or infantile, delayed physical or emotional development, talk of or attempted suicide.

      Neglect: Is the withholding of or failure to provide a child with the basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, medical care, attention to hygiene, or supervision needed for optimal physical growth and development. Watch for frequently missed school days, begging or stealing food or money, a lack of needed medical or dental care or glasses, a consistently dirty appearance or severe body odor, or alcohol or drug abuse.
    3. Who are mandated reporters?
      In Pennsylvania, persons whose occupation or profession causes them to come into contact with children are required by law, when they have reasonable cause to suspect abuse, to report or cause a report of that abuse to the county child protective services agency. In Philadelphia, that agency is the Department of Human Services.

      Persons who are required to report any suspected abuse include any licensed physician, osteopath, medical examiner, coroner, funeral director, dentist, optometrist, chiropractor, podiatrist, intern, registered nurse, practical nurse, hospital personnel engaged in the admission, examination, care, or treatment of person, a Christian Science practitioner, member of the clergy (except in cases of confidential communication), school administrator, school teacher, school nurse, social services worker, day care or any other child care or foster care worker, mental health professional, peace officer or any law enforcement official. Failure to inform or cooperate in an investigation is a crime under Pennsylvania law.

      In Philadelphia, the Department of Human Services staffs a 24 hour hotline to receive reports of possible child abuse or neglect. Reports of suspected physical abuse, sexual abuse, or severe neglect are investigated within 24 hours; other reports are investigated promptly.
    4. What are the requirements to be a foster parent?
      First, you must have a strong commitment to children, abundant patience and understanding and, above all else, a big heart with love to spare. You must also be over 21 years old, single, married or living in a relationship, and not convicted of violent acts or crimes against children. You must be able to provide appropriate sleeping space for foster children apart from the foster parent(s); medical clearance; and references. You must be willing to participate in a home study process and in training; must have a demonstrated ability in caring for children and their families, and must have sufficient income. For more information on becoming a foster parent, please call 215-683-4DHS and an informational packet will be sent to your address.
      5. How do I adopt a child?
        To adopt a Philadelphia child, call 1-800-TO ADOPT and request the PhillyKids Connection. For PA, call 1-800-585-SWAN (7926) – Statewide Adoption Network - or go to www.adoptpakids.org. Both the "PhillyKids Connection" and SWAN will refer you to an agency for a home study and to start the process.
        6. What is the Youth Study Center?
          The Youth Study Center is a secure detention facility in which youthful offenders await their hearing before Juvenile Court, or where they wait for placement following the hearing. Visits from parents are permitted and may occur daily during scheduled visiting hours.
          7. Where do I go if I need help with parenting?
            Parent Action Network provides information on and referral to parenting education and support programs throughout the city. Parents can call 215-P-A-R-E-N-T-S and they will be referred to services available in their community. They can also receive a free copy of Helping Hands, a parenting resource directory.

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