The Department of Human Services (DHS) recently clarified for the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) its interpretation as to when a child abuse clearance is required for physicians and other members of the health care team. The scope of the requirement’s application, as interpreted by DHS, is narrower than previously reported.
As interpreted by DHS, “a physician or other person employed by a medical practice or a hospital to deliver medical care or to provide administrative services related to the delivery of medical care would not need a child abuse clearance.”
In the past, the Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) required new hire physicians and other members of the health care team to have certain child abuse/criminal history certifications. A key trigger was when their job involved “regular contact with children.”
The package of amendments to the CPSL adopted in 2013 and 2014 appeared to continue this requirement in a different section, which required the certifications for:
an individual 14 years of age or older applying for a paid position as an employee responsible for the welfare of a child or having direct contact with children.
However, effective July 1, 2015, that language was amended to read:
an individual 14 years of age or older who is applying for or holding a paid position as an employee with a program, activity or service, as a person responsible for the child’s welfare or having direct contact with children*
*An exception applies to certain individuals employed in an intern, extern, work study, co-op, or similar program.
DHS staff has now advised PAMED that this amendment was intended to narrow the scope to only cover employees of a “program, activity, or service,” which is defined in the law as:
“Any of the following in which children participate and which is sponsored by a school or a public or private organization:
(1) A youth camp or program.
(2) A recreational camp or program.
(3) A sports or athletic program.
(4) A community or social outreach program.
(5) An enrichment or educational program.
(6) A troop, club, or similar organization.”
DHS staff has further advised PAMED of the following:
“The definition of “program, activity, or service,” as defined in the law would not include the provision of medical care by a physician practice or a hospital or other health care facility. So that a physician or other person employed by a medical practice or a hospital to deliver medical care or to provide administrative services related to the delivery of medical care would not need a child abuse clearance. “
At this point in time, DHS interpretation communicated by its staff to PAMED is not set forth in a regulation or official statement. PAMED has asked DHS to definitively define the scope of the child abuse clearance requirement to avoid any future confusion on this matter.
Should DHS offer a revised interpretation, or language directing a different interpretation be enacted in a new statute, PAMED will take appropriate action to inform our members.
Keep in mind, that the CPSL does not limit employers from imposing more stringent requirements on their employees, that is, to require a child abuse clearance even though not mandated under the law.
Also, even under the narrow interpretation, physicians would need a child abuse clearance if they are employed in a paid position by an organization that meets the definition of program, activity or service.
Information on how to obtain child abuse clearances can be found on DHS’ website.
Resources to help you understand and comply with the child abuse laws, such as CME on recognition and reporting that meets the state’s licensure requirements, can be found on PAMED’s website.