Guidance Provided to Counties on Investigating Child Abuse Cases
HARRISBURG (Dec. 21, 2021)—The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD), Pennsylvania District Attorneys Institute (PDAI), and Children’s Advocacy Centers of Pennsylvania (PennCAC) are pleased to jointly announce the updated release of the Model Set of Standards for Pennsylvania’s Multidisciplinary Investigative Teams (MDITs). The standards provide counties with standardized guidance and best practices on how to investigate child abuse cases, and an accompanying webinar—Introduction to MDITs—which can be found on PDAI’s website.
“Both the Model Standards and the supplementary webinar are designed to promote consistency across the Commonwealth and equip our MDITs with guidance about effectively investigating child abuse cases,” said PDAI Director Greg Rowe. Mr. Rowe added, “Child abuse cases are unbelievably tragic and heartbreaking and often require careful coordination among members of MDITs.”
Per the Child Protective Services Law, each county is required to form an MDIT, which is a group of professionals, convened by a district attorney, who work together in a coordinated and collaborative way to investigate child abuse cases. The goal of the MDIT is to work together during a child abuse investigation to avoid duplication of fact-finding efforts and interviews and to minimize the trauma to the child.
The original set of Model Standards was developed in 2013, just prior to the passage of several major changes to Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law. The revised Model Standards reflect the amendments that were made to the law and include more references to in-state resources available to assist in the development of the MDIT and its protocols in the handling of child abuse cases.
The webinar accompanying the release of the Model Standards is designed to provide a high-level overview of what an MDIT is, the role it plays, and the duties and responsibilities each of its members perform. It is intended to be used to introduce and educate new team members to the MDIT model and process.
“The investigation of child abuse is very much a team effort,” PCCD Executive Director Mike Pennington said. “As such, PCCD is very thankful for PDAI’s educational efforts over the years to support these teams—particularly the development of the Introduction to MDITs webinar and the hosting of the multiple MDIT symposiums held across the Commonwealth. Collectively, we believe these efforts will ultimately result in minimizing trauma to children and bringing more perpetrators of child abuse to justice.”
“The importance of professional collaboration when responding to a report of suspected child abuse cannot be overstated,” PennCAC Executive Director Chris Kirchner said. “These resources will assist counties to create and maintain a coordinated response that puts the needs of the child first, and ensure that law enforcement, child welfare, prosecution, and medical professionals are collaborating throughout the life of a case. These Standards encourage development and use of a Children’s Advocacy Center to support a team response, which by national best practice should also include a child-friendly facility, victim advocacy, forensic interviews, therapeutic services, and case coordination. PennCAC is available to assist counties as they strive to bring an evidence-based, trauma-informed, and collaborative response to protect the children in their communities.”
Both the webinar and symposiums were financially supported through Federal Children’s Justice Act funding made available by the PA Department of Human Services (DHS). More information about PCCD’s efforts to address child abuse can be found on its Children’s Advocacy Center Advisory Committee (CACAC) webpage. More information about PDAI and its educational offerings can be found on the Institute’s website. More information about PennCAC and the technical assistance it provides to MDITs and CACs throughout Pennsylvania can be found on its website as well.