42,000 calls for help to PA child abuse hotline went unanswered

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a disturbing report on the child abuse hotline, ChildLine.

Governor Tom Wolf and Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas said the problems with the system were inherited.

There were 42,000 calls for help which went unanswered in 2015.

DePasquale said, "More important than the huge number of calls, any single one of those calls, could have lead to a life or death situation for a child."

Two dozen pieces of legislation went into effect in 2014 to keep kids safe from abuse in Pennsylvania. DePasquale said some callers kept on hold for nearly an hour. The response to the new laws was overwhelming to an understaffed and some say outdated system.

Dallas said, "In December 2014, they increased the number of mandated reporters. All of those folks needed to get child abuse clearances. All of that goes through ChildLine."

"When you drive by a youth soccer game, you'll see a bunch of adults managing it, they all had to get criminal background checks, but nobody had to get the child abuse checks. That's one of the things that the law changed, that all of those folks had to get through the system," DePasquale said.

The interim report by DePasquale reveals those problems which grew with the ChildLine.

"There should have been an anticipation with the amount of people now required to go through these checks, that it would have lead to an increase volume of calls," DePasquale said.

Some want solutions to these problems, but with a Department of Human Services request of three more call takers and $1.8 million, Pennsylvania state legislator, Senator Scott Wagner (R-York) suggests DHS outsource calls to a private company as a more viable option.

"We can show you how much more staff we gave there to handle those calls to keep kids safe. We can show how much we're charging, how much those folks costs. I think it's ultimately a part of the discussion of the budget is 'do we think that's a reasonable use of taxpayer money to keep kids safe,'" Dallas said.