The first part of this two-part series explained the problems associated with the fact that Pennsylvania law allows anybody who is not legally required to report suspected child abuse to report suspected abuse anonymously. This allows people to weaponize the ChildLine abuse reporting system in Pennsylvania, in the process causing a tremendous amount of suffering to the targets of these needless investigations as well as any children who may be living with them.
This post will explore some other issues raised by false abuse reports.
Not All Abuse Reports Result in Child Abuse Investigations
Not every report of alleged child abuse received by ChildLine actually rises to the level of suspected child abuse. Instead, they may allege that some kind of intervention is needed to help prevent harm to the child. The report might claim, for example, that a parent or childcare worker is abusing alcohol or drugs while caring for one or more children, that the caregiver takes unnecessary risks with the child, or that the caregiver has mental health issues that place the child at risk.
None of these allegations – categorized as General Protective Services (GPS) reports rather than child abuse reports – are ones that claim that the target of the false report abused the child, but they may still result in an investigation of the person and a determination whether the County Children and Youth Agency needs to take any steps to intervene. In 2021, out of a total of 161,709 GPS reports received in Pennsylvania, more than 76,000 were screened out, with no action taken. Of the remaining 84,827 “assessed” GPS reports, 43,757 –about 27% of the total GPS reports received – were determined to be valid.
Remedies for False Reporting
It can be extremely difficult to find out who made a false anonymous child abuse report. That said, it is a second-degree misdemeanor to “intentionally or knowingly” make a false report of child abuse, which can result in a fine of up to $5000 and imprisonment of up to 2 years for a conviction. While it is possible for law enforcement officials investigating alleged false child abuse reports to request and receive information from government agencies that would otherwise be kept confidential, with limited resources, it is not likely that an allegation that someone has filed a false report against you will result in a thorough and effective investigation.
What to Do if A False GPS Report is Made Against You
Nobody likes to open the door and find an investigator on their front stoop wanting to come in and ask a lot of personal questions. But this is precisely what is likely to happen if a false report results in a GPS investigation of you and your living situation. Here too, it can be very helpful to have an attorney by your side when the investigator is asking these kinds of very probing questions so that you can be sure that you are cooperating with the investigator while still protecting your rights.
Joseph D. Lento has years of experience helping individuals like you in Pennsylvania face these kinds of difficult investigations. He and the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team understand the law, how the investigation process works, and how to help you assert your rights in a firm but respectful way when the process goes too far. If you've been notified that you're under investigation about your lifestyle or any other personal aspect of your life, contact Joseph D. Lento at once at 888.535.3686. Alternatively, use the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team's online link to set up a confidential consultation. You don't need to face these potentially damaging and definitely invasive interviews alone!