Horrific Child Abuse Case Ends in Death; Reporting Child Abuse in PA

Posted on September 22nd, 2020 in Family Law

Twelve-year-old Max Schollenberger from Lebanon County was reported dead after suffering horrific abuse at the hands of his father and stepmother. Representative Frank Ryan of Lebanon told Local 21 News that, “I can’t imagine what this young boy has gone through his entire life,” after authorities had discovered Schollenberger’s lifeless body, covered in human waste, on a bed in a second-floor bedroom.

A forensic autopsy concluded that the boy was severely underweight, lacked muscle mass, and likely died of blunt force trauma to the head. Further reports explained that other children lived in the house and were seemingly healthy and well-adjusted, making many wonder how could this happen?

Very few people knew of Max’s existence, as the boy never received formal schooling, had only been to a doctor once, 10 years ago, and was kept locked in the bedroom where he would be tortured.

The boy’s stepmother claims that she was a caregiver to the child due to the father’s “extreme frustration” toward the child and fear of hurting him.

This child’s murder may seem like the makings of a horror film, but is actually the gut-wrenching reality for many children lost within the system. As a community gathers to find answers for the crimes committed, we must use this information to protect other at-risk children in our own communities, perhaps even next door.

Child Abuse in Pennsylvania Statistics

In 2019, there were 42,252 reported cases of child abuse across the Commonwealth. Parents continue to be the persons most responsible for the abuse of their children. Children between the ages of five to nine were most reported, with children aged one to four and 10 to 14 in similar reporting percentages.

Educators and those who work with or near children are mandated reporters, meaning if they are made aware of or suspect abuse is occurring, they must report it. In the case of Max Schollenberger, he never attended school and hadn’t received formal medical treatment since infancy, meaning he was lost within a system that ultimately failed him.

But there are things we can be mindful of when we feel something is just not right within our own communities.

When You Suspect Child Abuse

If you suspect abuse is occurring within a home, you may feel uneasy to speak up but it is critical that you take the right steps. First and foremost, you do not initiate or engage in accusatory discourse with the suspected abusers. Instead, contact Children and Youth or the police. If you suspect immediate danger, call 9-1-1.

Sometimes though, you may wonder is it all in your head–chances are it’s not. But there are signs you can look for in the children and parents/guardians if you have a suspicion that a child is in danger.

  • Note Behaviors of Parents: If the parent(s) seems inconsistent with stories, can’t explain the child’s developmental patterns, had rigid reactions to certain situations or isolates themselves or the children from others
  • Physical Changes in a Child: Bruises, broken limbs, or symptoms of fatigue, vomiting, anxiety, etc.
  • Behavioral Cues: Depression, social withdrawal, bed-wetting, fear, self-harm, sexualized behaviors, aggressive, etc.
  • Hygiene and Appearance: Poor hygiene, tattered clothing, inappropriate attire for the season or age, bites, burns, medical needs not addressed, hair loss, etc.

If you notice hostile home conditions that leave the child or children stuck indoors in ways that make you uncomfortable or suspicious, call for help. The children of our communities need voices and advocates on their behalf.

Who Can I Call To Report Abuse?

If you see something, say something. The following resources are available to report child abuse.

Reporting Abuse in PA, Getting Legal Help

If you are being abused by someone or have been abused, your voice needs to be heard. The Scranton domestic violence attorney, Craig Kalinoski, stands with you, besides you, and will fight for you. Find safety, then, contact our office.

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