State and local officials cried foul when advocacy groups gave Pennsylvania a failing grade for reporting about child abuse cases. They said the state's policies for reporting abuse have been reformed -- making the "F" unwarranted.

A closer look reveals the reporting efforts are still wanting.

The Department of Public Welfare's annual child abuse report includes narrative descriptions of cases in which children died or suffered near-fatal injuries.

The narratives are short but gripping accounts of horrific crimes -- drownings, beatings and fires.

They describe many ways that children suffered or died, but they devote scarce detail exploring how social services agencies failed to prevent the tragedies.

When the victims were unknown to caseworkers, the report notes it. It fails to say if county officials took any action to better identify children in crisis.

In nine of the 30 cases in which children died from abuse or neglect, county workers had been contacted about problems in the home.

In seven of 12 cases in which children suffered nearly fatal injuries, social services had been alerted.

The Welfare Department report offers no insight into whether caseworkers or their supervisors were punished or fired. There is also no hint whether practices were adjusted to prevent similar tragedies.

Social service agencies are staffed by many caring and diligent workers. Their challenges are daunting and their efforts have helped better the lives of countless children. Efforts by those worthy caseworkers should not be overshadowed by the bumbling of a few.

However, one of society's greatest obligations is to care for our children -- and intervene when their families fail in that regard.

When the intervention system falters, the public deserves to know what is being done to correct the problem.

Pennsylvania's child abuse reporting fails to deliver that information.

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