Allegheny County ChildLine Referrals Attorney

In Allegheny County, some ChildLine Investigations do uncover substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect. However, it's essential to understand that a large majority of these allegations are deemed unsubstantiated. Although families are obviously relieved to learn that their investigation has been cleared up, the relief cannot diminish the anxiety they felt throughout the entire investigatory process.  

If you find yourself under investigation for child abuse in Allegheny County, or if you wish to appeal a decision made by ChildLine, legal help is available. Our supportive, diligent, and experienced LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has many years of experience navigating complex Pennsylvania ChildLine investigations. Contact us today by calling 888-535-3686 or using our online contact form.  

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania 

Located in the southwestern part of the state, Allegheny is the second-most populous county in Pennsylvania. The County enjoys a traverse of three major rivers, including the Allegheny River, Monongahela River, and Ohio River. Some of the cities, boroughs, townships, and towns located in the County include:  

  • Clairton 
  • Duquesne 
  • Mckeesport 
  • Pittsburgh 
  • Aspinwall 
  • Avalon 
  • Bell Acres 
  • Bethel Park 
  • Braddock 
  • Brentwood 
  • Carnegie 
  • Carnot-Moon 
  • Churchill 
  • Clinton 
  • Dravosburg 
  • Edgewood 
  • Elizabeth 
  • Gibsonia 
  • Glenshaw 
  • Imperial 
  • Jefferson Hills 
  • Monroeville 
  • Mount Olliver 
  • Oakdale 
  • Pennsbury Village 
  • Pleasant Hills 
  • Port Vue 
  • Rennerdale 
  • Russelton 
  • Sewickley 
  • Sewickley Hills 
  • Thornburg 
  • West Elizabeth 
  • Whitaker 
  • Whitehall 

According to the 2020 Child Protective Services Report drafted by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, of the 2,360 child abuse allegations in Allegheny County, only 190 were substantiated.  Most of the substantiated reports involved instances of sexual abuse, followed by physical abuse, and lastly, physical neglect. 

Allegheny County Children & Youth Services 

Allegations of suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment in the county are reported to the Allegheny County Children & Youth Services (“ACCYS”), the county agency responsible for investigating child abuse and neglect reports. In instances of severe abuse or neglect, BCCCYS may also remove children from dangerous home environments. However, its goal should always be to provide rehabilitative services. Some of the types of rehabilitative services ACCYS provides to families facing DCP&P investigations include

  • Parent and caregiver support in the form of childcare development courses, assistance obtaining food and other essentials, childcare, etc. 
  • Hello Baby, assistance for parents of newborns.  
  • Early Intervention Services for infants, toddlers, and children of up to 5 years of age who may be showing developmental weaknesses or signs of a potential learning disability.  
  • Child protective services.  
  • Investigative reports and services.  
  • Temporary out-of-home placement.  
  • Family reunification 
  • Group home placement. 
  • Guardianship or adoption. 
  • Family plan services such as counseling, visitations, federal assistance, etc.  

Pennsylvania's ChildLine System 

ACCYS uses the state's ChildLine System, a carefully structured and mandated state-level program that processes referrals and investigations of suspected child abuse and neglect. The ChildLine system in Pennsylvania is managed by the Department of Human Services (DHS). Through this system, ChildLine Investigators meticulously review the details of child abuse reports to assess whether there is a basis for substantiating the abuse claims. When required, the ChildLine staff collaborates with relevant authorities, including law enforcement and mental health agencies, to ensure a comprehensive and appropriate response to each situation.  

The ChildLine Registry 

The ChildLine Registry is a state-mandated database in Pennsylvania specifically designed to record the identities of individuals confirmed to have perpetrated child abuse. Having your name listed on the Registry carries significant consequences, such as restrictions on volunteer opportunities, employment, and even the denial of applications to foster or adopt children. Inclusion in the Registry can also negatively impact ongoing child custody or visitation disputes.  

ChildLine Reports 

Pennsylvania State Code Title 23, Chapter 63, entitled “Child Protective Services,” outlines the policies and procedures that must be followed throughout a ChildLine report, investigation, and referral. ChildLine investigations are first triggered when a ChildLine worker receives a notice of alleged child abuse from a permissive or mandated reporter. Although reports are confidential, they may be made by someone who knows the child particularly well. Reports can be made by teachers, neighbors, friends, etc. Under Chapter 63, the contents of a ChildLine report must include the following:  

  • The names and addresses of the child, parents, and persons responsible for the alleged abuse, as well as their relationship to the child. 
  • A description of the child's family, whether they have siblings, who they live with, etc.  
  • The location of the suspected abuse. 
  • A description of the alleged abuse, as well as any evidence that substantiates the claims.  
  • The actions of the person making the report (did they speak to the child, call the cops, report it to someone else, etc.…) 
  • The name, telephone number, and e-mail address of the person making the report inaccessible to the public.  

Mandated Versus Permissive Reporters  

Mandated Reporters 

Some individuals, known as “mandated reporters,” are required under Pennsylvania state law to report instances of suspected child abuse. Mandated Reporters receive thorough training from the state that instructs them on the various signs and possible symptoms of child abuse. Mandated Reporters are typically individuals who, because of their professional role or volunteer status, are often in the realm of family services or childcare. Some examples of Mandated Reporters include: 

  • Teachers, coaches, behavioral therapists, educators, counselors, professional childcare providers. 
  • Government employees, such as police officers, social workers, firemen, and government attorneys.  
  • Individuals in family-focused services, such as therapists, doctors, church staff, and mental health professionals.  

Mandated Reporters who fail to report instances of suspected child abuse can face serious legal consequences, including felony convictions at minimum in the third degree.  

Permissive Reporters 

Permissive Reporters are not legally obligated to report suspected child abuse, though their contributions are highly encouraged. This group typically comprises individuals like neighbors, coworkers, acquaintances, and relatives. While not legally required, the role of Permissive Reporters remains crucial. Their observations are particularly valuable in situations where family dynamics might be misrepresented or concealed from professionals such as therapists or teachers. 

What Exactly Happens During a ChildLine Investigation? 

If ACCYS has opened a ChildLine investigation against you, you are likely very concerned and fearful about the next steps in the process. Although ChildLine Investigators are obligated to carefully inform parents about what the entire process will look like and what rights they have throughout an investigation, some fail to meet this requirement. For this reason, it's very important to seek out legal advice as soon as you are aware that ChildLine is launching an investigation against your family, regardless of how confident you feel about the case. Sloppy investigations can result in unwarranted consequences. While each case varies, a child line investigation will typically occur in the following stages.  

The Reporting Phase 

ChildLine reports begin when either a mandated or a permissive reporter places a call of suspected child abuse to the ChildLine hotline or uses the state's online portal to lodge a concern. After this, the ChildLine worker speaks with the reporting party to collect information about the family. The investigator typically inquires about the alleged instances of child abuse, the child's familial situation and living situation, and how the reporter came in contact with the child.  

The Investigation Phase 

Once a report of suspected child abuse or neglect is made to ACCYS, they must determine and investigate evidence of possible child abuse as within the context of Chapter 63. Some of the major acts that qualify as child abuse under the chapter include intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly doing any of the following:  

  • Bodily harm through an act or failure to act. 
  • Fabricating, feigning, or intentionally exaggerating a medical symptom, resulting in a potentially harmful medical evaluation. 
  • Mental injury through an act or failure to act. 
  • Sexual abuse through an act or failure to act or causing sexual exploitation through an act or failure to perform.  
  • Creating a reasonable likelihood of bodily injury through an act or failure to act. 
  • Serious physical neglect. 
  • Kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing, or cutting.  
  • Unreasonable retraining or confinement. 
  • Forceful shaking of a child under one year or slapping a child of such period.  
  • Placing a child in an unsafe environment or location where crime is likely to occur. 
  • Leaving a child unsupervised with a sexual predator. 

If ChildLine staff confirms potential abuse or neglect, they must launch an investigation in 24 hours. Throughout the investigation, Investigators typically seek out people who know the child well, such as extended family members, teachers, coaches, or neighbors. In instances of domestic abuse allegations, they may review law enforcement logs to see if the family has a lengthy report history. ACCYS may even go as far, and often, as visiting the child's home to look for signs of abuse or neglect.  

If ChildLine Investigators feel the child is safe, they may deem the allegations unsubstantiated and close the case. The Investigators can also offer intervention services designed to help the family. Some of these services include counseling, childcare assistance, parenting classes, domestic violence services, and federal financial assistance. 

What Happens if ACCYS Confirms Allegations? 

If the ACCYS confirms the abuse allegations against you, your name will be promptly entered into the ChildLine Registry. Once ACCYS notifies you that your name appears on the registry, you should immediately request a formal removal, especially since this path can be time-consuming and challenging. These requests are not only difficult to achieve but require a great deal of effort and patience with the state's bureaucracy. Fortunately, our LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has experience successfully navigating this process for families and can help you in your request to remove your name from the ChildLine Registry.   

ChildLine Appeals 

ChildLine appeals should typically be filed within 90 days after child abuse allegations are deemed valid or “confirmed.” Appeals can either be processed through the state's Office of Children, Youth, and Families (“OCYF”) through an administrative appeal or as a hearing before the Bureau of Hearings and Appeal (“BHA”)  

ChildLine appeal hearings are very similar to a small trial and consist of several procedural components such as opening and closing arguments, admission of evidence, testimony, and cross-examination. During the hearing, the state must prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that you are guilty of the child abuse allegations against you. The clear and convincing evidence standard must be so strong that the decision-maker is “firmly convinced” or “reasonably certain” that the arguments are true. The allegations may be reversed if the state fails to meet this burden.  

How Can I Have My Name Removed From the ChildLine Registry? 

Generally, a name can be removed from the ChildLine Registry through either one of the following methods. Firstly, you can file a request with DHS asking them to remove their name from the registry due to newly uncovered evidence that disproves the allegations of a child in the first place. This request is not always easy to prove and will depend on the allegations involved and the strength of the evidence presented to DHS.   

Secondly, you could also file a petition with DHS that argues you no longer pose a risk to children. Again, this request will depend on the allegations involved and the strength of the arguments and evidence presented. For instance, if the original case dealt with your substance abuse issues, you could demonstrate your sobriety by providing proof of treatment, counseling, etc.   

Work With a ChildLine Attorney in Allegheny County 

Navigating a ChildLine investigation or appeal in Allegheny County requires a concrete understanding of the legal and bureaucratic processes specific to Pennsylvania and the County. We recognize that ChildLine investigations can be emotionally overwhelming, making it difficult for parents to approach their case with a strategic and deliberate mindset. Fortunately, you do not have to face this giant alone. Our  LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is here to offer the necessary support and guidance to mitigate your concerns. Contact a member of our Team today by calling 888-535-3686 or using our online contact form.  

Contact Us Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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