Accused of child abuse. Four words that can turn your world upside down in a heartbeat. Child abuse allegations are among the most serious and sensitive charges that can be leveled against an individual. They carry a significant social stigma and can potentially lead to severe legal consequences.
Regardless of your guilt or innocence, your life can become highly complicated just by being accused. In Pennsylvania, allegations of child abuse almost always end up being reported to ChildLine, which puts your name into a child abuse registry automatically. Being reported for possible child abuse can affect your current employment, limit your future employment options, restrict your ability to work with children, potentially result in loss of contact with your own children, and possibly even result in civil or criminal charges.
The Lento Law Firm Can Defend You Against Child Abuse Allegations
Because this issue can cause so much damage so quickly, if you find yourself in the unwelcome situation of being accused of child abuse, you need an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to help protect your rights, ensure due process, advise you on the best course of action, and most of all, defend you in court if charges are filed. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team have successfully helped many people in your situation, and they know how to navigate this sensitive situation for the best possible outcome on your behalf. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.
What Is ChildLine?
Established by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, ChildLine is a 24/7 hotline dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Any member of the public can call this hotline to report incidents or patterns of suspected child abuse or neglect. In addition, many professionals (including health care providers, clergy, law enforcement, etc.) are "mandated reporters," meaning they are required by law to report any known or suspected incident of child abuse to ChildLine.
When someone contacts ChildLine with suspicions of child abuse, ChildLine refers the report to Child, Youth, and Family (CYF) Services in the appropriate county within 24 hours. The agency will then thoroughly investigate the allegation and determine whether further action is needed.
What Happens if Someone Reports You to ChildLine?
Once someone contacts ChildLine to report you for possible child abuse—whether it's over a misunderstanding, a false accusation, or something more—you're in for a roller coaster ride. That report triggers a series of potentially disruptive events which can happen quite quickly:
- Your name gets registered automatically. Regardless of your guilt or innocence, your name is entered into the registry of potential child abusers.
- An investigation ensues. The local CYF Services agency will assign a caseworker to conduct the investigation, which typically takes about one month to complete. The investigation involves interviewing you, the child, the parents or guardians (if it's not your child), and any other relevant individuals. If you're accused of abusing your own child, CYF has the authority to remove the child from the home as it deems necessary while the investigation is ongoing.
- A determination is made. At the conclusion of the investigation, CYF will determine whether the report is "founded," "indicated," or "unfounded." The Department of Human Services will notify you of the results by mail.
- Possible legal consequences. If CYF validates the complaint, it will be referred to local prosecutors, and you could face both civil and criminal charges. If you're convicted, depending on the severity of the offense, you could face fines, jail time, and a damaging criminal record. You could also separately lose custody of your children.
Can I Get My Name Removed From the ChildLine Registry?
It's possible but definitely not easy. If the CYF investigation determines the allegations are unfounded, the abuse report will typically be expunged from the database within 120 days. If the determination is "indicated" (i.e., some evidence of abuse) or "founded" (ample evidence of abuse), your report stays on the registry at least until the child reaches the age of 23. In either case, once your name appears in the registry, it stays in the registry indefinitely. Although this policy has been the topic of intense debate (and several court cases), currently, the only way to have your name completely removed is with a successful appeal, which can be a difficult process.
Long-Term Impact of a ChildLine Report in Pennsylvania
Accusations of child abuse don't just evaporate into thin air, even if they're deemed "unfounded." The implications are far-reaching, touching every facet of your life. The social stigma, the potential for legal consequences, and the emotional toll can be debilitating. Not to mention, if you're a parent, the risk of losing custody of your child.
Being reported to ChildLine on its own has potentially serious and lasting repercussions; although the ChildLine registry isn't accessible to the public, it can be accessed by government agencies and some employers (especially those that involve working with children). Regardless of your guilt or innocence, being named on the ChildLine Registry can impact you in the following ways:
- Restrict you from working at any job involving minors;
- Limit you from certain educational opportunities;
- Prevent you from participating in any organized activities involving children (e.g., chaperoning for school field trips, scouts, etc.)
In addition, being registered on ChildLine can be used against you in custody disputes to limit, suspend, or revoke custody or visitation rights with your children.
How the Lento Law Firm Can Help
You can easily see how much is at stake if you've been accused of child abuse in Pennsylvania. The negative impacts on your life, employment, and relationship with your kids can be devastating, even if the allegations are proven false. For this reason, you need to get a skilled child abuse defense attorney in your corner at the first sign of trouble.
At the Lento Law Firm, we understand how frightening and overwhelming it can be when you're accused of abusing a child. We've seen firsthand how CYF investigations can quickly spiral out of control and ruin people's lives if they don't have proper legal representation. That's why Joseph D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team are dedicated to helping those being investigated by CYF or reported to ChildLine. We can assist you in crafting an effective defense strategy, gather evidence to exonerate you, pursue all available appeals, and defend you against any criminal charges that result. We know how to work with CYF and prosecutors to protect your rights and pursue a favorable outcome that will minimize the long-term effects of this terrible allegation. Reach out to the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contact us using our online form.