Child abuse has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control as a public health concern that causes significant medical and mental health consequences - many of which affect not just children, but also the adults they become.

As part of a larger Penn State project and NIH grant, Penn State Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Kent Hymel discusses a clinical trial to test a tool doctors can use to objectively determine if pediatric patients who are admitted to the hospital with head trauma should be evaluated for abuse.

Child Abuse: A growing public health concern

Nearly six million children are reported for suspected child maltreatment each year in the United States.

An average of five children - most of them under the age of four - die every day from abuse or neglect.
Estimates indicate that 1 out of every 5 children in the U.S. will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.

Sadly, studies show that most victims of sexual abuse do not disclose their mistreatment for at least a year. One-third of all victims never tell anyone about the abuse they have endured. Children who do disclose sexual abuse often are not believed, causing them to suffer both the effects of their abuse and the betrayal of the trust they once held for parents, caregivers, or other adults.

The deep, long-lasting scars of maltreatment inevitably change a child’s life trajectory. Victims of abuse are much more likely to develop self-destructive habits and lifestyles, early chronic illness, disability, and premature death. They are also more likely to pass their inflicted injuries on to the next generation of victims. The earlier abuse is identified, the greater chance children have to heal and avoid perpetuating this cycle of destructive behavior.

But there is much to be done. Many cases of abuse and neglect go undetected. When investigations do occur, they are often performed by overburdened caseworkers and law enforcement officers. Even the clinicians who step up to evaluate and treat victims of abuse often have insufficient expertise in child maltreatment and in dealing with the aftermath of traumatic stress.

As the region’s only academic medical center, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is strategically positioned to help fulfill the University’s responsibility to improve the detection, treatment, and prevention of child abuse. The Center for the Protection of Children is poised to pioneer an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to addressing the causes and consequences of child maltreatment.

About the Center

The over-arching purpose of the Center for the Protection of Children is to develop and coordinate research, education, and policy initiatives having to do with child abuse/protection – within Penn State Health, Penn State's broader Network on Child Protection and Wellbeing, as well as with community partners.

The Center for the Protection of Children brings together an interdisciplinary group of Penn State clinicians and researchers who are well respected for their achievements in the field of child abuse. Based on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine, the Center is a remarkable collaborative effort whose goals are to prevent maltreatment, improve reporting of suspected abuse, provide comprehensive care for children who have experienced abuse, and advance knowledge about how best to protect vulnerable children and support them and their families.

As a community of scholars and clinicians, we understand that addressing the problem of child abuse is multi-faceted. We must treat children's injuries, provide care and oversight as they recover, and work to ensure that they are protected from further harm. Equally vital are research and education. Effective interventions require an evidence-based understanding of the causes of maltreatment as well as the predictors of good and poor outcomes. So, too, best practices require that everyone who works with children appreciate not only risk factors for child abuse, but also what we can do to be effective advocates for vulnerable children throughout our society.

The Center is one of four foundational Centers that make up Penn State's Network on Child Protection and Wellbeing, whose purpose is to advance collaborative, multi-disciplinary scholarship on child abuse and child protection.

Report suspected abuse


24-hour toll-free to report suspected child abuse and neglect - 800-932-0313

National Child Abuse Hotline

24-hour crisis hotline offering support, information, literature, and referrals. The hotline counselors work with translators who speak 140 languages to help people who call and speak something other than English. All calls are anonymous. (The hotline counselors don't know who you are and you don't have to tell them.)

800-422-4453 (1-800-4-A-Child) - 800-222-4453 TDD (1-800-2-A-Child)

Look Out for Child Abuse website

Collaboration between Penn State Children's Hospital, Penn State College of Medicine - Department of Humanities and the Center on Children and the Law of the Penn State Law.

How to help

Share Your Expertise

If there is a non-monetary way in which you are interested in helping support the work being done within the Center for the Protection of Children, please call 717-531-5158 to leave a message for the Center director, or email


The University has committed deeply from its own resources to establish the Penn State Health Center for the Protection of Children. But the full scope of its impact can only be realized with the generosity and shared vision of generous supporters like you.

You have a unique opportunity to unite and take action against child abuse. Your financial support is critical to:

  • Enhance clinical services for abused children
  • Educate future health care professionals to better detect and treat abuse
  • Facilitate new initiatives to recognize and report child abuse

Together we can ensure children have a brighter future for many generations to come.

To give online, please visit our secure giving website.

To learn more about specific initiatives you can support to help the Center, please contact:

Kelly A. Altland
Associate Vice President and Chief Development Officer
Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
Penn State College of Medicine

Our Team


Division Chief of Child Abuse Pediatrics

Clinical Child Protection Team

Foundational Centers

  • Child Study Center
    • Karen Bierman, PhD
  • The Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development
    • Ed Smith, PhD
  • Center on Children and the Law
    • Lucy Johnston-Walsh JD, MSW

Affiliate Centers

Other Center Members

(Penn State Health affiliation unless otherwise noted)

  • Kathy Bieschke,PhD, Professor, Education
  • Gary D. Ceneviva, MD, Director, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
  • Robert Cilley, MD, Professor of Surgery and Pediatrics; Chief, Division of Pediatric Surgery; Director, Pediatric Trauma Program
  • Margaret Clanagan, BS, Program Associate, Medical Education, Penn State College of Medicine
  • Sue Cromwell, PhD, Director of Workplace Learning and Performance in the Office of Human Resources
  • Carie D'Agata, MD, Residency Program Assistant Director; Assistant Professor, Division of Women's Health
  • Michael Dettorre, DO, Associate Professor, Pediatric Critical Care
  • James DiPerna, PhD, Assistant Professor of Education
  • Mark Feinberg, PhD, Center on Prevention Research, Family Foundations Program
  • Paula George, MD, Director, Children's Resource Center, Pinnacle Health
  • Mark T. Greenberg PhD, Bennett Chair of Prevention Research, Penn State
  • Cindy Greene, LSW, Social Worker, Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine
  • Marianne Hillemeier, PhD, Associate Director, Population Research Institute; Associate Professor, Health Policy and Administration, Demography, Penn State
  • Marie Killian RN, BSN, Pennsylvania Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Program
  • Benjamin H. Levi, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Humanities and Pediatrics
  • Jonathan Marks, JD, Associate Professor of Bioethics, Humanities, and Law; Associate Director of the Rock Ethics Institute; and Director of the Bioethics Program, Penn State
  • Sosamma Methratta, MD, associate professor of radiology, pediatric radiology specialist
  • Jesse Middaugh, MS, Director, Information Sciences & Technology Program, Penn State Harrisburg
  • Brian Rabian, Clinic Director of Child and Adolescent Service, Penn State Psychology Clinic, Penn State
  • Dorothy Rocourt, MD, Department of Pediatric Surgery
  • Carroll Rottmund, RN, BSN, Pennsylvania Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention Program
  • Chad Shenk, PhD, Asst. Professor, Health Development and Family Studies
  • Beverly Shirk, RN Pediatric Trauma Care Coordinator
  • Gary Shuey, MSW, Social Work Supervisor, Center on Children and the Law, Penn State Law