Every year, thousands of Pennsylvania residents are put on the state's ChildLine child abuse registry. Many of these people haven't ever heard of ChildLine until after they've been placed on the list. Finding out that your name's been added to the registry — that you've been "ChildLined" — can change your life forever.
Being ChildLined can affect all aspects of your life, including your ability to earn a living. People who are listed on the ChildLine registry face restrictions on where they can work and volunteer. They also have to deal with the potentially lifelong stigma of having been accused of child abuse.
Child abuse allegations are extremely serious. You're right to be extremely concerned about how they'll affect your life. The situation can be overwhelming. You might not know what to do or who to turn to.
Defending yourself against child abuse allegations is complicated and time-consuming and can also be emotionally draining. On top of that, enduring a child abuse investigation is probably one of the most intrusive, stressful situations you'll ever face in your life. With so much at stake, you shouldn't handle such a serious matter alone.
The LLF Law Firm has years of experience successfully representing clients in Clearfield County who are facing child abuse allegations. Our knowledgeable Criminal Defense Team can help you understand how ChildLine investigations work and can help you defend yourself against these potentially life-altering allegations. We'll be in your corner every step of the way. Contact us at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.
What Is ChildLine?
ChildLine is a 24-hour hotline set up by Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services to prevent child abuse and neglect. When ChildLine receives a report of suspected child abuse, they refer the matter – usually within 24 hours – to the Child, Youth, and Family Services department in the county where the incident is alleged to have occurred or where the allegedly abused child lives.
In Clearfield County, the Clearfield County Children, Youth, and Family Services (CYFS) department receives ChildLine reports of suspected child abuse for incidents that happen within Clearfield County and those that involve children who live in the county. CYFS then assesses the allegations and determines what, if any, action is needed. It's possible that, after a CYFS investigation, your name could be added to the ChildLine registry.
Having your name in the ChildLine registry affects your life and livelihood in many ways. Although the ChildLine registry isn't available to the general public, some employers can access it to make hiring – and firing – decisions. The ChildLine registry lists the names of people whose child abuse reports have been given "indicated" or "founded" status at the conclusion of a ChildLine investigation.
To make matters worse, once your name's on the list, it's very tough to remove it. If you've been notified that your name has been added to the ChildLine registry or have been accused of child abuse in Clearfield County, the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm can help you understand what's at stake and help you defend yourself and restore your reputation.
Who Can Make a ChildLine Report?
Anyone can make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect to ChildLine. In fact, Pennsylvania encourages anyone who reasonably suspects that a child is being abused or neglected to report the matter to ChildLine or to local authorities. The state encourages these so-called "permissive" reporters – i.e., people who aren't required by law to report child abuse or neglect that they suspect or are aware of – to make their reports to ChildlLine. Pennsylvania encourages people to report suspected abuse or neglect by allowing permissive reporters to file their ChildLine reports anonymously.
Pennsylvania requires some people, however, to report any child abuse or neglect they suspect or are aware of. These people are known as mandated reporters. Mandated reporters can actually face criminal liability if they don't report the suspected child abuse or neglect that they're aware of.
Mandated reporters have a special responsibility when it comes to reporting suspected child abuse. They're held to this high standard because they generally work in jobs where they come into contact with children and families on a regular basis. Mandated reporters generally include teachers, healthcare workers, social workers, law enforcement officers, daycare workers, and religious organization personnel.
Mandated reporters can make ChildLine reports by phone or via ChildLine's online submission system. But, unlike permissive reporters, mandated reporters can't make their ChildLine reports anonymously. They have to include their name and contact information in their reports.
But because mandated reporters can't make their child abuse reports anonymously, Pennsylvania protects them from all civil liability pertaining to their reports – unless they file false reports with malicious intent – and keeps their names confidential.
There's a general presumption under Pennsylvania law that mandated child abuse reports are made in good faith. Unfortunately, people do sometimes make false child abuse reports to ChildLine. For example, someone involved in a contentious child custody battle or a nasty divorce might falsely accuse their ex of child abuse in an attempt to gain a favorable outcome for themselves. A coworker, colleague, or even a neighbor might make false child abuse allegations against you in order to get ahead professionally, to settle a personal score, or for other personal reasons.
The problem of false child abuse accusations may be compounded by the fact that anyone can make anonymous reports of child abuse or neglect to ChildLine. That's why it's so important to work with an experienced legal team if you're accused of child abuse in Clearfield County. The experienced Criminal Defense Team at the LLF Law Firm can help you vigorously defend yourself and get your life back on track.
What Happens After a ChildLine Report Is Made?
When ChildLine receives a report of suspected child abuse, they refer the matter to the appropriate county's Child, Youth, and Family Services department, usually within 24 hours. So, if ChildLine receives a report of suspected child abuse that happened in Clearfield County or that involves a child who lives in Clearfield County, they'll forward the report to the Clearfield County Children and Youth Family Services (CYFS) department. A CYFS investigator then assesses the allegations and determines whether or not the report alleges behavior that constitutes child abuse or neglect.
If the report sufficiently alleges child abuse, CYFS will then open an investigation into the allegations. They have 60 days to complete their investigation. If you're the subject of a CFYS investigation, during the investigation, CYFS can interview anyone who has any information about the report, including you, your exes, your spouse, your children, your friends, your co-workers, and your employers.
It's not uncommon for Pennsylvania to take a multidisciplinary approach to child abuse cases. In addition to contacting the county office of youth and family services, ChildLine will also contact law enforcement officials who will work together with county and social services agencies to investigate child abuse allegations.
If the accused offender is a licensed Pennsylvania professional, ChildLine might also contact the appropriate state licensing board about the child abuse report. The licensing board can then assess the allegations and decide whether to impose any sanctions or penalties on the accused's professional Pennsylvania license or licenses.
It's important to understand that although a ChildLine investigation isn't a criminal investigation, it's possible for you to be the subject of a ChildLine investigation and a separate criminal investigation into the child abuse allegations at the same time. The experienced Criminal Defense Team at the LLF Law Firm can help you understand exactly what charges you're facing and the best way to defend yourself against them.
What Can You Do if You're Being Investigated by ChildLine?
It's important to know your rights if you're the subject of a ChildLine child abuse investigation. In Pennsylvania, you have to be notified of:
- Your right to an attorney, and your right to have an attorney with you during any meetings or interviews with government officials.
- The existence of the child abuse report and allegations made against you.
- Your right to seek to amend or expunge the county's decision.
It's also important to know what's at stake when you're the subject of a ChildLine investigation. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, your name could be added to the ChildLine registry. Being listed on the registry can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. It can ruin your reputation, restrict where you can work, limit where you can volunteer within your community, and more.
In addition, even though ChildLine investigations aren't criminal investigations, it's important to understand that, in some circumstances, a separate criminal investigation might take place alongside your ChildLine investigation. Even if your ChildLine investigation doesn't result in a finding of abuse, you could still wind up facing criminal child abuse charges, which can result in hefty fines and jail time.
Being the subject of a ChildLine investigation can be emotionally exhausting. The process is intense, and there's so much riding on the outcome. Having investigators question your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors about your alleged abusive behavior can be very intrusive. And, even if you're cleared of all wrongdoing, the emotional toll of the experience can last many years after the investigation ends. The damage to your reputation can take years to undo and, in some cases, can be permanent.
The stakes of the ChildLine investigation couldn't be higher. That's why contacting the experienced Criminal Defense Team at the LLF Law Firm is the best thing to do if you're the subject of a ChildLine investigation in Clearfield County. We have years of experience helping people successfully navigate the ChildLine investigation process in Clearfield County and throughout Pennsylvania. You don't need to face this situation alone. We're here to help you.
What Happens if a ChildLine Investigation Determines You Committed Child Abuse?
A lot is riding on the outcome of your ChildLine investigation. It will determine many things, including whether or not your name will be added to the ChildLine registry, which will affect where you can work and volunteer. It can also affect any child custody arrangements that you have in place. The outcome can also affect any professional licenses you have in Pennsylvania.
At the conclusion of their investigation, the ChildLine investigators will determine whether the child abuse report against you is unfounded, indicated, or founded. If they determine that the child abuse report is unfounded, this means that they didn't find evidence of child abuse and won't add your name to the ChildLine registry. But you may still have to live with the stigma of having been accused of child abuse.
If the investigators determine that the child abuse report is indicated, this means that they found substantial evidence of child abuse and will add your name to the ChildLine registry. If the investigators determine that the child abuse report is found, this means that there's a judicial determination – such as a trial verdict or court ruling – that found substantial evidence of child abuse, and they'll add your name to the ChildLine registry.
Immediately after the ChildLine investigation, the county will submit its results to the state, which will then notify you of:
- The result of the investigation and whether the report is unfounded, founded, or indicated.
- If the report is founded or indicated, the fact that your name, the nature of the child abuse, and the report's status will be entered into the ChildLine database.
- The effect that the report will have on your job and volunteer opportunities.
- Your right to appeal an indicated finding within 90 days.
- Your right to request to expunge or amend the report.
- Your right to a hearing on the merits on appeal, where the county bears the burden of proving its case by substantial evidence.
How to Expunge Your Name From the ChildLine Registry
In order to expunge or remove your name from the ChildLine registry, you have to carefully follow the appeal process. This requires closely following the court rules and adhering to strict deadlines. Most people aren't familiar with these rules and processes. An experienced legal team can provide crucial advice at this stage.
Generally speaking, indicated reports can be expunged for good cause, such as the discovery of new evidence that the child abuse report is inaccurate and proof that you no longer pose a risk to commit child abuse. You have 90 days to request an administrative review or appeal and a hearing to expunge or amend an indicated report.
If your request is granted, you'll then have 90 days to file your appeal. If your request is denied, you can appeal the denial. If you file your appeal within the 90-day window, a hearing will then be scheduled.
The expungement hearing will take place at the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. At the hearing, the county has the burden of proving by substantial evidence that the report should remain an indicated report. For Clearfield County, the proceedings will likely be held at the Central Regional location of the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals in Harrisburg. It's important to keep in mind that this is an administrative proceeding, not a criminal one, but the outcome can still result in severe consequences.
At the hearing, you'll be able to speak and present evidence, such as medical records, witness statements, and photos. If the report status changes to unfounded, county officials will update their records to reflect the new status, and they'll remove your name from the ChildLine registry.
It might be possible for someone named as a perpetrator in a founded report to expunge their name from the ChildLine registry. In these cases, the accused has to provide a court order that shows that the underlying action that formed the basis of the founded report has been reversed or vacated.
This all may sound confusing and overwhelming, but the knowledgeable attorneys on the LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team can help you determine the best course of action in your situation.
How to Appeal a ChildLine Finding of Child Abuse
There are many opportunities to appeal decisions that are made throughout the course of the ChildLine investigation process. Successfully appealing a ChildLine finding is complicated, and you have to carefully follow the procedures and filing deadlines to have a chance at success. An experienced legal team can be of great help to anyone who's looking to appeal a ChildLine finding of child abuse.
The process of expunging your name from the ChildLine registry can be thought of as one form of appeal. Appealing the denial of an initial request for administrative review of a ChildLine finding is another. If your initial request is denied, you have the right to appeal the denial and request a hearing to amend or expunge the finding of the indicated report. You then have 90 days to request a hearing. At the hearing, the county has the burden of proving the allegations against you. If they fail to make their case, they'll remove your name from the ChildLine registry.
If the hearing doesn't go your way, it's possible to appeal this decision as well. You have 15 days from the date of the final order to request a reconsideration of the decision. If your request is granted, you then have 30 days to file an appeal with the Commonwealth Court.
Although it might seem like a long shot, it's definitely worth going to the trouble of filing an appeal at this point. Of the 86 decisions that were appealed in 2021, almost half were overturned. The key to a successful appeal is a strong, knowledgeable legal team who is familiar with the ins and outs of the Pennsylvania ChildLine appeal process.
The LLF Law Firm has been helping people in Clearfield County successfully navigate the ChildLine appeals process for many years. We'll work with you to create a solid legal strategy that will ensure the best possible outcome for your appeal.
What To Do if You're Facing a ChildLine Investigation for Suspected Child Abuse in Clearfield County
The Clearfield County Children, Youth, and Family Services department investigates and manages reports of suspected child abuse that are sent to them through the ChildLine system. They also handle reports that are made directly to them.
Clearfield County residents should know that, according to a 2020 Child Protective Services Report, there were 249 reports of suspected child abuse in Clearfield County and only 31 substantiated reports. Given these statistics, it's definitely in your best interest to contact the LLF Law Firm to vigorously defend yourself against any child abuse allegations you're facing in Clearfield County.
If you're a Clearfield County resident who's been notified that your name's been added to the ChildLine registry, you should contact the LLF Law Firm for help. The Criminal Defense Team has years of experience successfully representing clients throughout Clearfield County who are facing ChildLine investigations and other matters pertaining to child abuse.
How the LLF Law Firm Can Help Clearfield County Residents Who Are Under Investigation by ChildLine
If you're a Clearfield County resident who's the subject of a ChildLine child abuse investigation, or you've been notified that your name's been added to the state's ChildLine registry, you need the best legal representation possible.
The Criminal Defense Team at the LLF Law Firm has years of experience successfully representing Clearfield County clients who have been accused of child abuse. We can help you understand how ChildLine investigations work and will fight to ensure that your rights are protected every step of the way. Contact us at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.