Lancaster County ChildLine Referrals

Getting accused of child abuse or neglect can be incredibly jarring. This is especially true in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where accusations can be made easily and anonymously using the state's ChildLine system. When alleged abusers are placed on the ChildLine registry, it can negatively impact every aspect of their lives. They may be forced out of their jobs, prevented from volunteering in their communities, removed from their homes, or even prohibited from traveling. Moreover, individuals placed on the registry (sometimes referred to as getting "ChildLined") will have to deal with the stigma of being a suspected child abuser.

The only way to prevent such hardships and ensure your name is not tainted is to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who understands the intricacies of these cases. The qualified attorneys at the LLF Law Firm have spent years helping individuals all over Pennsylvania who have been referred to ChildLine and forced to endure its exhausting investigatory process. They can help. Call 888-535-3686 or schedule a consultation online today.

What Is Pennsylvania's ChildLine System?

Pennsylvania has a unique system called ChildLine that allows any individual to report suspected child abuse and general child well-being concerns. These reports can be made anonymously, either verbally or in writing, and will be immediately transmitted to the appropriate county office for further investigation. When the correlating county office finds evidence that the accused individual did commit child abuse or neglect, they will publish their name on ChildLine's registry.

On the ChildLine registry, names are categorized into either "indicated" or "founded" statuses. Which status an alleged abuser falls into depends on several factors, which we will explain further in more detail. However, whichever status your name is listed under, the individuals who have access to the registry will not necessarily know the difference. You will experience potentially harsh consequences just for being published on it. And while the general public does not have access to the registry, some employers do. They will be able to review it and your case when making decisions about your employment.

Being included on the ChildLine registry can have disastrous effects on your life. Moreover, it can affect other legal cases you might be involved in. For instance, judges will take into account ChildLine registrations when determining child custody arrangements, child support payments, and spousal support. To ensure you are not subjected to such issues, it is crucial you reach out to an experienced criminal defense team the moment you learn of the accusations against you.

What's a ChildLine Referral?

The moment the ChildLine system gets a report of suspected child abuse in Lancaster County, it transmits it to the Children & Youth Agency (LCCYA) within 24 hours. The LCCYA office will begin an investigation into the accusation immediately.

While each county has its way of handling these accusations, they tend to follow the same steps. First, LCCYA will review the report and determine whether it qualifies for an investigation. If they believe it does, they will appoint an intake caseworker to investigate it – meeting with the family, the suspected abuser, and any other relevant individual, such as the accused person's friends, spouses, children, and co-workers. This investigation must be completed within 60 days of opening.

In some cases, ChildLine might also inform law enforcement officials of the report. It is not uncommon for social services and law enforcement to team up and investigate an allegation of child abuse. Additionally, if the accused individual is a licensed professional in Pennsylvania, ChildLine may contact their state licensing board.

ChildLine Referrals in Lancaster County

When a report is made to ChildLine about suspected child abuse or neglect in Lancaster County, the LCCYA office is tasked with the preliminary assessment. They will determine if the investigation moves forward or if the report should be dismissed.

In 2021, there were 1,638 reports of suspected child abuse and neglect to the ChildLine Registry – up from 1,074 in 2012. However, only 251 could be substantiated. Over 1,000 cases were thrown out that year – meaning that potentially over a thousand false accusations were made to the ChildLine Registry in 2021.

False accusations are prevalent in child abuse reports to ChildLine because it encourages anonymous reporting. The intention was to get people to report alleged child abuse or neglect without having to worry about being targeted themselves. Unfortunately, though, the system seems to be taken advantage of more often than not by individuals who are looking to hurt the people they are reporting. For instance, parents in heated custody battles can resort to reporting one another to ChildLine for abuse in the hopes that it will negatively affect the other parent's custody outcome. Further, angry co-workers, neighbors, or strangers can make false reports in an attempt to destroy someone's life.

Lancaster County tries to separate the clearly false accusations from the ones that should be investigated but sometimes reports that should be thrown out fall through the cracks. Hiring an experienced attorney is the best way to make sure your case does not proceed past the investigation process. Not only will the LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team help you prepare for the LCCYA office's inquiries, but they will also negotiate with them on your behalf in the hopes of mitigating any unnecessary consequences you might face.

Who Can Make a ChildLine Report?

In Pennsylvania, anyone can make an anonymous accusation to the ChildLine system. Individuals who voluntarily report suspected child abuse or general well-being concerns to ChildLine are referred to as "permissive reporters." However, some individuals are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect. They are called "mandatory reporters."

Mandated Reporters

Mandatory reporters are individuals who can face criminal penalties if they fail to report supposed child abuse or neglect that they are aware of. Typically, mandatory reporters are professionals who work in positions where they regularly encounter children and families. For instance, healthcare workers (like doctors or nurses), teachers, counselors, daycare attendants, police officers, social workers, and religious officials (like rabbis, ministers, or priests) are mandatory reporters.

While mandatory reporters can make their ChildLine reports online or by phone, they must include their name and contact information. Pennsylvania has a presumption that mandatory reporters are making their reports of child abuse or neglect in good faith, so they will protect their identity unless they determine that their report was made with malicious intent. When this happens, they will no longer hide the bad-faith reporter's identity.

What Happens if a ChildLine Referral Results in a Finding of Child Abuse?

The outcome of the LCCYA office's investigation into the ChildLine report determines whether an individual's name is published on the ChildLine registry. Once their investigation is completed, they will decide whether the initial report was unfounded, indicated, or founded.

Unfounded Reports

If LCCYA discovers that there is no evidence of child abuse, they will mark the report as unfounded. The accused individual's name will not be added to the ChildLine registry, and the report will be dismissed.

Though the investigatory process is a harrowing one, this is the ideal outcome after it has been initiated.

Indicated Reports

To mark a report as "indicated," LCCYA must have found substantial evidence of child abuse during their investigation. The types of evidence that can substantiate these reports include available medical evidence, child protective services investigation reports, or a perpetrator's admission of the abuse. Individuals whose report is marked as indicated will be added to the ChildLine Registry.

Founded Reports

These reports have much more significant evidence than the other two. If a report is given the "founded" designation, it means one of four things:

  1. There was a judicial decision that the child in the report had been abused, and the court case involved the same factual circumstances as the one in the ChildLine report.
  2. The accused individual was accepted into an accelerated rehab program for reasons that are connected to the circumstances listed in the report.
  3. If the report involves a juvenile proceeding, a court found that the minor did commit child abuse.
  4. There is a protection from abuse order in place.

These reports are immediately placed on the ChildLine Registry.

Having your name published on the ChildLine Registry will impact your entire life. As such, it is important to remember that ChildLine investigations are not the same as criminal investigations. This means you need to be much more on top of the proceedings and processes than if you were simply going to court to defend yourself. There are more nuances and procedures when defending yourself from a ChildLine referral.

That being said, a criminal investigation can be conducted at the same time as the LCCYA office's investigation. If this happens to you, you could be facing both ChildLine registration and criminal child abuse charges. Further, even if your ChildLine report is dismissed, you could still be forced to endure a criminal proceeding and potentially suffer a significant prison sentence.

The LLF Law Firm's skilled Criminal Defense Team will help you understand your rights and create a strategic defense to protect them.

What Are Your Rights if You've Been Referred to ChildLine?

The ChildLine system can infringe on many accused individual's due process rights. For example, sometimes, county investigations into the report can be conducted without ever notifying the accused. When this happens, an accused person is prevented from defending themselves. Moreover, because ChildLine reports can be made anonymously, the accused person has the constitutional right to confront their accuser.

However, if you are referred to the ChildLine system, you have certain rights, including:

  • Getting notified of the child abuse or neglect report that is made against you.
  • Your right to an attorney.
  • The right to have your attorney present at all interviews or meetings with county officials.
  • And the right to appeal or expunge the county's decision.

Then, once the county completes its investigation, it must notify you of:

  • The investigation's result and the status of the ChildLine report.
  • Your right to appeal their decision within 90 days.
  • Your right to have the report expunged and have your name removed from the registry.
  • The consequences the report might have on your future employment or career opportunities.
  • Whether your name and the description of the alleged abuse was published on the registry, whether it was categorized as "indicated" or "founded."
  • Your right to a hearing on the facts of the appeal, in which case the county must prove its finding by substantial evidence.

How the LLF Law Firm Can Help You if You've Been Referred to the ChildLine in Lancaster County

Any kind of abuse or neglect is never okay, especially if it is being done to children. However, the current ChildLine system model of anonymous tips can put innocent individuals in precarious situations. Not only can such an accusation affect your social and professional reputation, but it can also impact your ability to provide for yourself or your loved ones. What's worse is that because of how the ChildLine system is set up, individuals out for revenge can make false accusations against you, forcing you and the people in your circle to endure uncomfortable interviews, probing questions, and severe consequences.

If you have been referred to the ChildLine system in Lancaster County, it is important to reach out to a qualified attorney immediately. The experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm know the kind of havoc being placed on the ChildLine registry can wreak on your life. They will work tirelessly to overturn such a placement and repair your reputation, helping you achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or schedule a consultation online. LLF Law Firm is here to help.

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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