Huntingdon County ChildLine Appeals

Accusations of child abuse are some of the most serious and damaging claims that can be made against an individual. The mental, physical, and emotional toll of such accusations can damage or destroy individuals and families. While not all allegations of child abuse are false, the unfortunate truth is that such allegations are often made in divorce or custody proceedings to gain the upper hand or by an angry or envious acquaintance in order to punish or harass the accused. Sometimes, allegations are the result of a simple misunderstanding or an overzealous mandatory reporter.

Whatever the reason, each year, many individuals in Pennsylvania find themselves the target of an unexpected and confusing child abuse investigation. These alleged abusers worry that even if the allegations cannot be proven, they will never regain their reputation or their role in their children's lives.

In fact, accusations of child abuse are more common than you might think, and cases that are substantiated (founded or indicated) are the exception. In 2021, there were 155 total reports of child abuse in Huntingdon County, and of these, 24 were substantiated.

Accused of Child Abuse in Huntingdon County

If you live in Huntingdon County, your first notice of child abuse accusations will often come from a caseworker from the Huntingdon County Children's Services, who calls or visits you in an attempt to begin an investigation. If this has happened to you, it is vital that you find and hire experienced counsel willing to represent you in your home county. The LLF Law Firm Team has years of experience with Childline investigations and appeals, and they are available to represent those accused of child abuse in Huntingdon County. If you are facing allegations of abuse or neglect, call the LLF Law Firm at 888.535.3686, or provide your details through the online contact form, and we will contact you.

Childline System

Childline is a statewide system in Pennsylvania that receives and refers reports of child abuse. The system accepts reports made to a telephone hotline or those made electronically online. Anyone can make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect 24 hours a day. Needless to say, this creates an atmosphere where false or calculated reports may be made easily and anonymously for personal gain or to gain advantage in divorce or separation cases. Because those accused or found to have abused children are placed into the Childline Abuse Registry maintained by the State, allegations of child abuse can have unanticipated effects. Childline investigations involve a number of negative consequences, for employment, education, or even volunteering at your child's school.

Childline Abuse Registry

Pennsylvania maintains a Childline Abuse Registry, which contains the names of individuals the Department of Human Services (DHS) has determined committed acts of child abuse. But the Registry also contains the names of those accused of child abuse with pending investigations or even where the allegations were determined to be unfounded.

In 2021, Pennsylvania DHS received a total of 38,013 reports of suspected child abuse but substantiated only 5,036, or roughly 13%. But many individuals in the remaining 87% found themselves on the ChildLine Abuse Registry, at least temporarily, despite the lack of evidence to substantiate allegations of abuse.

The Childline Abuse Registry contains the names of those accused of abuse of children. Unfounded or false reports of abuse are often still on the Registry, as are names waiting for expungement. As your attorney will advise you, it may be necessary to seek expungement of your name from the Registry, even where allegations are unfounded or your appeal is successful.

Who Can Make a Childline Report

The Division of PA Department of Human Services receives, records, and refers reports of suspected child abuse. As stated earlier, anyone may report abuse without identifying themselves or their relationship to the victim or the accused. But reporters to Childline fall into two different types: mandatory reporters and permissive reporters.

Mandatory Reporters are figures in your community who have a legal responsibility to report suspected child abuse where they have “reasonable cause” to believe that child abuse has occurred. Mandatory reporters include doctors, teachers, therapists, religious leaders, and social workers. Other reporters of child abuse are permissive in that they have no duty to report child abuse but are choosing to do so.

What Happens After a Report of Abuse is Made

After a report of suspected child abuse, Childline will determine how to respond. They may send the allegations to the County for investigation. In certain cases, they may contact the police. The identity of the person making the report is kept confidential.

Childline will send a report of suspected child abuse in Huntingdon County to Child and Youth Services for investigation, assessment, and child protective services, if appropriate.

What to Do if You Are Being Investigated

The investigator or caseworker will review allegations of child abuse or neglect made against you. The investigation will almost certainly involve a home visit, during which the investigator will rate different aspects of your family life. The investigator will review the medical and criminal records of the parties. The investigation will involve interviews with your family and may involve interviews with your child or children. The investigator will also likely interview people in your community, and this may promote gossip concerning the allegations against you.

At this point, you should be represented by an experienced legal team. The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is experienced with abuse investigations and will be able to advise you on how to best present your case. The LLF Law Firm Team will have a dialogue with the investigator so that there will be no surprise allegations or evidence.

The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can advise you as to when cooperation with the investigation is in your interests and in what way you may be obligated to participate. You should always discuss these issues with counsel ahead of time. In order to protect your legal rights, you need to have some knowledge of those rights, how to assert them, and when. Finally, while no reputable attorney will advise you to lie, it is also true that people harm their cases every day by volunteering or oversharing. The LLF Law Firm Team can prepare you for a difficult interview and help you understand the basics of responding to allegations. It is important to use care and to prepare beforehand.

What If Abuse is Confirmed

If the allegations against you are substantiated, your name will quickly appear on the Childline Abuse Registry. You must act quickly to prevent your name from appearing on the Registry, often indefinitely.

The charges may be substantiated through a determination that they are Founded or Indicated. Accusations of child abuse may be found to be:

  1. Indicated. This means that the County believes that the abuse occurred and supports the allegations against you.
  2. Founded. This is a finding that a particular perpetrator has been found to have abused a child and is legal in nature.
  3. Unfounded. This means the County investigated and was unable to find evidence of abuse.

If the County decides that your case is either Founded or Indicated, it is vital that you move to the filing of an appeal immediately. While you typically have 90 days to file your appeal, this time passes quickly, especially if you need to hire legal counsel. Even in the event of an Unfounded finding, your attorney will do a follow-up to verify that your name is removed from the Registry as quickly as possible.

How to Appeal Childline Abuse Finding

You can take several different avenues of appeal, and the appeal process that is best for you will depend on the nature of the allegations. Initially, you have a right to the following two forms of appeal:

  1. Administrative Review with the OCYF.
  2. Hearing before the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (BHA).

The 2021 CPS Report shows that the majority of 2021 appeals were still pending when published. But even at that early date, 98 of these appeals had been successful in overturning the earlier decision. Of these successful early appeals, two-thirds were from Hearings, while one-third were from Administrative Review. The most successful strategy may be to pursue both of these appeal routes.

At the Hearing, your attorney will have the chance to tell your side of the story. You can present the testimony of witnesses and documents that support your case. The State must show that you committed the abuse through “clear and convincing evidence.” This is a high burden and if the State does not meet its burden, the findings of the determination will be overturned, and your name will be removed (or “expunged”) from the Registry.

If the Hearing is not successful, you have 15 days to appeal to the Secretary of the Department of Human Services. This option is often successful in PA and should always be considered. After appealing through this process, a person who is unhappy with the findings may appeal to the Commonwealth Court.

Don't Pursue Appellate Process Alone

While this appeals process offers the possibility of overturning earlier findings, it is exceedingly difficult to navigate it successfully without an experienced attorney. The rules and regulations surrounding both administrative appeals and BHA hearings are difficult to understand, especially for the non-lawyer. Don't face this process alone. The LLF Law Firm will be a great equalizer in your case—suddenly, the State won't have an insurmountable advantage. Even if you have not had legal representation through the early stages of an investigation, you can hire an attorney for the appeal process. The thing you must not do is wait until after your rights have lapsed to fight your placement on the Registry. Call the LLF Law Firm today.

Expungement of Childline Registry Entry

If your appeal is successful, your name will be removed from the Childline Abuse Registry. Your attorney will take action to verify that your name has been removed, as the state often fails to do this. If you are not successful in overturning a Founded or Indicated finding, expungement of your name from the Registry will be much more difficult. These findings are now technically eligible to be expunged after one year on the Registry. But as a practical matter, expungement will only occur if there is new evidence or if you can prove that you do not pose a risk and no purpose is served by your placement on the Registry.

If your name appears on the Registry, and you believe that you might be eligible for expungement of your record, call the LLF Law Firm. This type of appeal is taken to the Secretary of the Department of Human Services. If you have newly discovered evidence or where essential fairness is at play, an appeal of this type may be available.

How the LLF Law Firm Team Can Help

If Huntingdon County Child and Youth Services has notified you that you are under investigation for child abuse, the LLF Law Firm can help. If you have a substantiated finding of abuse or if you have been notified that your name will be listed on the Childline Abuse Registry, it is vital that you contact the LLF Law Firm immediately. The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can advise you of your rights and vigorously defend your name and reputation against allegations of abuse. The LLF Law Firm has years of experience with the Childline system and has seen the most difficult cases in terms of misuse of the system. Particularly if you are facing false allegations that are being used for an advantage in a divorce or custody proceeding, the LLF Law Firm Team can handle the interplay between family law and allegations of abuse.

If you or your family are facing allegations of abuse or neglect, you need tough, effective representation. Call the LLF Law Firm at 888.535.3686, or provide your details through the online contact form, and we will contact you.

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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