Nearly 8,000 Trained as Mandated Reporters at Penn State since April
By Laura Stocker Waldhier, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK – Nearly 8,000 Penn State employees and volunteers have now attended the University’s professional training program designed to help employees recognize and report suspected child abuse.
“As of Oct. 15, we have trained 7,963 employees and volunteers, including the University’s Board of Trustees and senior leadership,” said Susan Cromwell, director of workplace learning and performance in Penn State’s Office of Human Resources. “We have 23 sessions on the calendar through December, and additional sessions still can be scheduled by units as needed.”
Face-to-face training sessions began in April so the University could address an immediate need to train employees, also identified as “authorized adults,” who would be working with children at numerous summer camps and workshops at University Park and other Penn State campuses across the commonwealth.
The second stage of the program — an online counterpart originally intended for a fall 2012 rollout but delayed because of unanticipated technological challenges — is now scheduled to be released in early 2013. “We are looking forward to offering the training online to our employees,” said Cromwell. “The feedback we receive from the live training sessions has been valuable in helping us build a robust online program.”
The interactive online training eventually will be for all University employees at every campus location, with the exception of Penn State Hershey Medical Center/College of Medicine, University Health Services and the client representation clinics of the Dickinson School of Law. Each of those units will follow the policies and training appropriate to its own unique activities.
“We are encouraged that so many have been trained through the live sessions,” said Cromwell, “and we will continue to conduct live training until we move to the online format, as well as support related efforts, such as helping Student Affairs develop training specifically for student organizations.”
The program is part of Penn State’s initiative to help ensure a safe community for children, said Cromwell, with the goal of educating the University community about child abuse and reporting, and move people from an awareness of the issue toward having confidence to take action.
Susan Basso, associate vice president for human resources, said, “We are working hard to ensure the safety of children on our campuses and those involved with our programs.”
As part of this focus on safety, Basso added, Penn State now requires annual mandated reporter training for all authorized adults — individuals working with minors in University programs and/or on University property — as well as more stringent background checks for all prospective University employees, employees in sensitive and critical positions, and volunteers.
“More than 18,000 background checks have gone through since we introduced this change in July 2012,” she said. “We have made great headway in implementing the changes recommended by the Freeh report, and continue to do so.”
Cromwell noted that her office has received calls from other universities, asking about Penn State’s improvement efforts and the implementation of the training program. “We seem to be a model for other institutions,” she said. “Requests come from across the nation asking about our policy changes, and we’re more than happy to help in any way we can.”
The mandated reporter training effort is being led by a team of individuals from Penn State’s Center for Workplace Learning and Performance, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR), WPSU Learning and Media Design Team, University Police, Penn State Student Affairs, Intercollegiate Athletics, Centre County Women’s Resource Center, faculty experts and professionals throughout the community.