The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania maintains a hotline to prevent child abuse, and anyone can call if they suspect abuse or neglect is taking place. The toll-free number reaches the ChildLine program, which aids children who are or may be in danger. York County is part of the ChildLine program, as are all Pennsylvania counties. No one can dispute that the program's goal of helping children is a good idea. However, when someone is accused of child abuse, their whole world can go into a tailspin. One phone call to ChildLine, which is known as a ChildLine referral, can cause tremendous damage. When someone calls ChildLine and tells the operator that you have abused or neglected a child, the ramifications are serious. The call can impact nearly every aspect of your life. Your family, friends, and neighbors may want nothing to do with you. If you have a child custody arrangement, it may be overturned. You could lose your job and any professional license that you hold. You may also be prevented from performing some types of volunteer work. Criminal charges may also follow a ChildLine referral. It's hard to believe one phone call can cause so much damage, but it can.
If you are the subject of a ChildLine call in York County, you must take action to protect yourself. To do that, you need a skilled and knowledgeable attorney at your side, and the LLF Law Firm can supply that counsel. The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team knows what to do when someone is accused of harming or neglecting a child. The LLF Law Firm's attorneys know how Childline works, and they understand the process York County uses when someone is accused. It's best to have an experienced law firm to guide you through what is no doubt a nerve-wracking and chaotic time. An attorney from the firm will go over your case, explain what can happen, and review your options. The attorney will also answer your questions and strive to obtain the best possible outcome. The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help no matter where you are in York County. From Hanover to Mount Wolf to Red Lion and anywhere in between, the LLF Law Firm can assist you. Reach out to our office at 888-535-3686 or fill out this online form to contact us.
What Is Pennsylvania's ChildLine Program?
Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services set up the ChildLine program so people can easily make a call to report child abuse or neglect. An operator is present 24 hours a day, every day, to answer calls, and most callers do not have to identify themselves.
The ChildLine program keeps records on individuals who have been accused of abuse or neglect, as well as on people who have ultimately been determined to be abusers. Pennsylvania calls the records the registry, and several groupings of people are in the files. One group covers people who are labeled as “pending.” This means someone has been accused of abuse, but authorities have not finished their investigation yet. The second group of names is labeled as “indicated.” This means that after an investigation, authorities determined that child abuse occurred. Another group of names is labeled as “founded.” This means there has been a judicial ruling, perhaps arising from a guilty plea or a trial verdict, that there was substantial evidence of abuse or neglect. The final group is called “unfounded.” This means authorities determined that the accusations were baseless. An individual who is accused of abuse will find themselves placed in the registry, regardless of the exact label placed next to their name.
Members of the public cannot access the registry. However, some employers can see the listed names when performing background checks. For example, employers can look at the registry when an employee or potential employee will work directly with children or encounter them while on the job.
If your name is put on the ChildLine registry, it's not the same thing as being charged with a criminal offense. There are situations when child abuse or neglect accusations cause prosecutors to file criminal charges, but the registry is an entirely different matter. But this does not mean being on the registry is any less serious. When your name is on the registry, it can turn your life upside down.
What Is a ChildLine Referral in Pennsylvania?
When someone makes a call to ChildLine regarding possible abuse or neglect, the program's staff refer the case to the appropriate county's child, youth, and family services department within 24 hours. The ChildLine staff may get in touch with law enforcement as well if it appears that a criminal offense has been committed against a child.
When ChildLine's referral comes into the county, the department employees review the information and decide whether an investigation is needed. If an investigation is necessary, the department has 60 days to complete it. During the investigation phase, the department staff can talk to anyone who might know about the matter. The staff can talk to the accused person, members of the family, children, friends, coworkers, and spouses and ex-spouses. In some situations, law enforcement may work with the department on the investigation.
If someone has placed a call to ChildLine and made accusations against you and the matter has been referred to York County, the LLF Law Firm can help. The firm's attorneys understand how devastating these allegations are, and they can guide you through the maze of proceedings that result. Experience matters. That's why the Criminal Defense Team at the LLF Law Firm is your best bet for help.
Who Can Make a ChildLine Referral?
Pennsylvania divides callers to ChildLine into two categories. When someone is concerned about a child, they can voluntarily call and make a report. These people, who can remain anonymous if they desire, are known as “permissive” reporters. A friend, a relative, a neighbor, or a stranger can make a call. Anyone can be a permissive reporter. The second category of caller is known as a “mandated” reporter. Under Pennsylvania law, these individuals must report suspected abuse and neglect by virtue of their jobs. They have to make the call. Childcare workers, healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers, religious leaders, school employees, and social workers are mandated reporters in Pennsylvania. Volunteers who work with children as part of an activity or program are also mandated reporters. These individuals can face criminal charges if they do not report suspected abuse.
However, mandated reporters cannot remain anonymous when they call ChildLine. They must give the operator their names and contact information, but the staff keeps this information confidential. Pennsylvania also protects mandated reporters from liability unless they intentionally make a false abuse report.
As we all know, mistakes can and do happen. There are situations when a permissive or mandated reporter makes a false report because they were confused or mistaken. There are also times when either type of reporter makes a false report on purpose. Even though a report is false, it can still have a negative impact on an accused individual. If you are in York County and believe a ChildLine caller has made false abuse or neglect allegations against you, don't hesitate to seek assistance from a strong legal team. The LLF Law Firm has that team, and they are ready to go to bat for you.
ChildLine Referrals in York County
When ChildLine refers a call to York County, the referral goes to the Children, Youth and Families Department, which is headquartered in the city of York. The department's Intake Services Division, which has staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, takes the referral call and determines whether an investigation is needed. If an investigation is necessary, the division assigns an intake worker to handle it. The division has between 30 to 60 days to complete the investigation. When the investigation is finished, the case will either be closed or accepted for ongoing services.
The department has several options when a case requires ongoing services. One option is to send the matter to the Family Preservation Division. While the child remains in the home, the division will monitor safety and work with the family or a guardian to preserve the family unit. If this plan is successful, the case will be closed. If further services are needed, the department may remove the child from the home.
York County may also immediately remove a child from the home if its investigation reveals that the home environment is unsafe. In either situation, when the department removes a child, a foster family or relative may be called on to care for the child. The department may also place a child in a shelter, group home, or residential treatment facility, depending on his or her needs. If a child is removed from the home, the department will continue to work with the child's family or guardian to achieve the ultimate goal of reunification, which means returning the child to the family unit.
If the department determines that the child cannot return to the family unit, the county may take the drastic step of terminating parental rights. This is the county's last resort, and the department works through all possible options before taking this step.
In addition, when a child turns 16 and is in foster care or living with a relative, the department offers independent living services. These services include job readiness and life skills classes because the department's goal is to help teenagers become self-sufficient.
As you can see, a ChildLine referral to York County can have grave consequences. If you are in York County and ChildLine has received a call about you, be proactive. Do not ignore it. The best thing to do is consult with the attorneys at the LLF Law Firm. They have the tools you need.
Your Rights When a ChildLine Referral is Made to York County
You are not powerless when you are the subject of a ChildLine referral in York County. The county does not work in the shadows. You have rights. According to Pennsylvania law, the department must notify you if it intends to investigate a report of abuse or neglect and must tell you that you can have a lawyer present during any interviews. They must also tell you that you can seek amendment or “expunction” (which basically means expungement) of York County's final decision on the matter.
The department must send you another notice when it completes its investigation. The notice contains the same information as the first one, but it adds additional information. In the second notice, the department must tell you that you have the right to get a copy of the report from the county or the ChildLine registry. The department must also tell you that in the event the case is unfounded, your name will be taken off the ChildLine registry within 120 days. This period runs from the day someone made the call to report suspected abuse or neglect. Further, this second notice must explain what a determination of founded or indicated will mean for someone who is trying to gain employment at a school or with a child care service. Lastly, the department must inform you of the implications the final decision will have under the law and provide a list of York County's available services for youth and families.
If, following an investigation, the department returns a finding of indicated in your case, ChildLine will notify you of this label. ChildLine's notice will explain that your name and the nature of the abuse will be kept on the registry indefinitely. ChildLine's letter must also outline your right to seek amendment or expungement of the decision. ChildLine will also send you a notice if you are given a founded label after York County's investigation. The notice will state that this status will be listed under your name in the registry for an indefinite period. The registry will also mention the nature of the abuse.
Can a ChildLine Finding Be Appealed?
As you can see, being listed in the ChildLine registry is no laughing matter. It can lead to a domino effect of problems, including the loss of employment, social ostracism, and changes to a child custody arrangement. However, ChildLine findings of indicated or founded can be appealed. An appeal must be filed within a short time frame, so it's a good idea to work with a proficient attorney who knows what to do. The LLF Law Firm is well-versed when it comes to ChildLine, York County's Children, Youth and Families Department, and the appeals process. You will breathe easier when you have an attorney from the LLF Law Firm at your side.
You Need Tough Legal Representation in a York County ChildLine Referral
You need capable, experienced legal representation if you have been placed on the ChildLine registry or are worried that you will be listed. You must fight for your rights, and the LLF Law Firm will be there for you every step of the way. The LLF Law Firm is ready to help, no matter where you are in York County. We can help if you are in Dover, Manchester, New Freedom, Weigelstown, or any other city or town in York County. Get in touch with us by phone at 888-535-3686 or make contact by using this online form.