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It's a topic most people are uncomfortable talking about: child abuse.

For many people, though, it's their job to report it if they see something that's amiss. On Dec. 31, 2014, the number of mandated reporters in Pennsylvania expanded after 23 new laws took effect in the state.

"Mandated reporters are basically anyone that comes in contact with children," said Angela Liddle, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Family Support Alliance. "It's religious leaders. It's teachers. It's doctors. It's volunteers in schools."

April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month. Groups like PFSA and the Children's Aid Society Southern Pennsylvania District work to help prevent child abuse and raise awareness for the issue that's prevalent in the country and state.

Because so many people are now included in the mandated reporter group, Liddle and the rest of PFSA worked hard to create a free training program for all mandated reporters. Liddle and her staff train the largest number of professionals in the state. The free training is on-site, as well.

"We're not just shipping out the training material," she said. "Our program takes it step by step to make sure people understand it fully. Mandated reporting seems like it should be an easy thing, but it's not."

Reporting: Liddle said the best way to approach child abuse is to use the Transportation Security Administration's unofficial motto: "See something, say something."

People avoid reporting things because they're afraid of being wrong, Liddle said. They're afraid they'll make things worse for the child involved or make the issue worse for the family.

"They're afraid they'll cause embarrassment for the kid or for the family or for themselves," she said. "But I tell people, 'Can you really point to times where your gut steered you wrong?'"

According to research from the PFSA, people who take the mandated reporting training through the group are five times more likely to report when they see child abuse. Those reports tend to have more detail and are of higher quality and accuracy, Liddle said.

"If you don't make the call, who will?" she said. "More often than not, you hear people who say 'I knew there wasn't something right there.' That's not OK."

The Lehman Center: Liddle was the director of The Lehman Center in York City years ago. Jan Zeigler, interim executive director of the Children's Aid Society, pointed to the work The Lehman Center has done in the last year for results that this work has created.

"We have a crisis nursery that takes children from newborns to age 6 in when parents need it," Zeigler said. "We provide a safe place for the child to stay while parents are going to doctor's appointments or other things that a normal support system would help with."

From July 2014 to June 2015, the crisis nursery took in 185 children in the area. Ninety-eight percent of the children were from families meeting the federal poverty criterion.

The Lehman Center also does art therapy for children, helping 204 children from age 3 to 18 cope with whatever is going on in their lives. It has parenting support groups as well.

"Most of these people don't have a traditional support system," Zeigler said. "We are that support system for them. We're the ones who step up for these people. We have a wonderful group of volunteers that helps with this."

Silent auction: 

In order to provide these kinds of care, The Lehman Center has been hosting a silent auction and live auction fundraising event for the last 25 years. This brings in roughly $45,000 to $50,000 every year.

"We couldn't do without it," Zeigler said. "It helps fund the nursery and other programs. It's for an amazingly worthy cause."

This year's event is Tuesday. The silent auction starts at noon at the York County 4-H Center, 771 Stoverstown Road. The live auction starts at 5 p.m.

"We have food, antiques, furniture, artwork, theme baskets," Zeigler said. "We have hundreds donated so far. Last year we used over 800 bid slips for the auctions."

Zeigler said this goes right back to the community supporting the kids around them and preventing child abuse.

"You can't put a price tag on that," she said.

The auction is open to the public. Zeigler said she expects between 300 and 400 people to pack into the York County 4-H Center.

For more information on the items to be auctioned or on The Lehman Center, visit the Children's Aid Society Facebook page. Referrals may be made by calling The Lehman Center at (717) 845-5771.

For more information on PFSA and to get information on the free training available, visit pa-fsa.org.

— Reach Katherine Ranzenberger at kranzenberger@yorkdispatch.com.

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