Lehigh County ChildLine Referrals Attorney

Every day, unsuspecting Lehigh County residents are referred to Pennsylvania's ChildLine system for suspected child abuse. Being placed on the ChildLine registry – or getting "ChildLined" – can wreak havoc on nearly every aspect of your life. This is because if you're on the ChildLine registry, you can't work in certain jobs or volunteer in your community wherever you'd like to. Your child custody arrangement might also change, and your life can get turned upside-down by a ChildLine investigation. What's more, is that the stigma of being a suspected child abuser will follow you for many years.

Defending against accusations of child abuse and enduring the intrusiveness of an investigation is probably one of the most stressful things you'll ever face. Child abuse allegations are extremely serious. The uncertainty of how the accusations will affect your life can be overwhelming. With so much at stake, you need the best legal team possible at your side.

The knowledgeable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm have years of experience helping Lehigh County residents defend themselves against ChildLine referrals and investigations. Call us at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.

What Is Pennsylvania's ChildLine System?

ChildLine is Pennsylvania's 24-hour hotline established by the state's Department of Human Services to prevent child abuse. Anyone can make an anonymous report of child abuse or neglect to ChildLine.

ChildLine maintains a registry that lists the names of people who are found to have "indicated" or "founded" reports of child abuse in Pennsylvania. Although the registry isn't available to the general public, employers are able to access it to make hiring – and even firing – decisions based on who's on the list.

Having your name listed in the ChildLine registry can drastically affect your life and livelihood. Being listed in the ChildLine registry will limit where you can work and volunteer and can even affect your child custody arrangement.

You need to understand that once your name's added to the ChidLine registry, it's extremely difficult to get your name off the list. In many cases, people don't even know what ChildLine is until after they've been put on the list. Don't let this happen to you. Contact the experienced LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team as soon as you find out that you're the subject of a Lehigh County ChildlLine referral.

What's a ChildLine Referral?

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. Each county has its own process for handling these referrals.

Generally, after receiving a ChildLine referral, county workers assess the allegations and determine whether the behavior constitutes child abuse. If it does, the county starts an investigation and has 60 days to complete it. County officials can interview anyone who has any information about the case, including the accused person, their family members, neighbors, friends, employers, and co-workers.

In addition to contacting the county, ChildLine sometimes contacts state and local law enforcement officials. It's common in Pennsylvania for multidisciplinary teams made up of law enforcement and social services agencies to investigate child abuse allegations together.

Also, if the accused offender is a licensed Pennsylvania professional, ChildLine might also contact the appropriate state licensing board so the state licensing officials can decide if they want to take action against the accused's professional license.

With so much at stake, if you're the subject of a ChildLine referral in Lehigh County, your best chance of success is to contact the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm for help.

ChildLine Referrals in Lehigh County

The Lehigh County Office of Children and Youth Services (LCOCYS), receives reports of suspected abuse and neglect from the ChildLine system for incidents that happen within Lehigh County and those that involve children who live in Lehigh County. LCOCYS assesses the allegations and determines what if any, further action is needed.

Many people are falsely accused of child abuse in Pennsylvania. This could be because the state allows and encourages anonymous reports. False allegations of child abuse are more common than you might think. They can happen in family situations that are emotionally charged, such as divorces and custody battles. Parents might resort to falsely accusing each other of child abuse in an attempt to get a favorable outcome for themselves. Coworkers, neighbors, and even strangers can also make false reports for their own personal reasons.

In 2020, there were 1,122 reports of child abuse in Lehigh County and only 143 substantiated reports. Given these statistics, if you're the subject of a ChildLine referral in Lehigh County, it's crucial to contact the knowledgeable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm as soon as possible. We'll assess your case and help you defend yourself.

Who Can Make a ChildLine Report?

In Lehigh County, anyone can make an anonymous accusation of child abuse to ChildLine at any time. Pennsylvania encourages anyone who reasonably suspects that a child is being abused or neglected to report it. People who voluntarily report suspected child abuse are known as "permissive" reporters and can make their reports to ChildLine anonymously. Some people, however, are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect.

Mandated Reporters

Pennsylvania requires mandated reporters to report any suspected child abuse that they're aware of. They can actually face criminal penalties if they don't report suspected child abuse or neglect that they're aware of. In Lehigh County, mandated reporters are people who reasonably suspect abuse of a child under the age of 18 who's under the care, supervision, or guidance of an organization or institution.

Lehigh County relies heavily on mandated reporters to keep county children safe and emphasizes the legal repercussions for those who fail to make mandated reports. Lehigh County-mandated reporters who fail to file reports due to confusion about the reporting requirements, fear of parents' reactions, or to avoid the hassle of getting involved will face serious consequences.

Mandated reporters are generally people who work in roles where they frequently come in contact with children and families. The law imposes a special responsibility on these folks with regard to reporting suspected child abuse and neglect. Healthcare workers, teachers, counselors, daycare workers, police officers, social workers, and religious officials are generally considered mandated reporters.

In Lehigh County, mandated reporters must make their ChildLine reports by phone or online through the state's compass system. But unlike permissive reporters, mandated reporters have to include their names and contact information in their reports.

The state protects mandated reporters by keeping their names confidential and also by protecting them from legal liability if their reports are inaccurate – unless they intentionally file a false report that's made with malicious intent. There's also a general presumption in Pennsylvania that mandated reports of child abuse and neglect are made in good faith.

But the system isn't perfect. Both permissive and mandated reporters can and do make mistakes. Some also file false reports in bad faith. False accusations of child abuse can wreak havoc on every aspect of your life. The knowledgeable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm can help you vigorously defend yourself against ChildLine reports of abuse in Lehigh County.

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

There's a lot riding on the outcome of your ChildLine investigation. It will determine whether or not your name is added to the ChildLine registry. ChildLine investigators determine whether a child abuse report is unfounded, indicated, or founded, and your fate hinges on how they categorize the report.

If county officials determine that a child abuse report is unfounded, this means that they didn't find evidence of child abuse, so they won't add your name to the ChildLine registry. If they find that the report is indicated, this means that they concluded that there was substantial evidence of child abuse and will add your name to the ChildLine registry.

A report that's given founded status by county officials means that there's a judicial adjudication – such as a trial verdict – that found substantial evidence of child abuse against you. Your name will be added to the ChildLine registry for a founded report.

Having your name on the ChildLine registry can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life in many ways. It will restrict the kind of jobs that are available to you, the volunteer opportunities that you are allowed to do, and more.

It's important to keep in mind that a ChildLine investigation isn't a criminal investigation. In some circumstances, though, there might be a criminal investigation taking place alongside your ChildLine investigation.

So, it's possible that you can wind up facing criminal child abuse charges in addition to what the ChildLine investigation determines. And, even if the ChildLine investigation doesn't result in a finding of abuse, it's possible that you can still face criminal charges.

The county's decision can be difficult to understand, and all of its implications might not be immediately clear. The LLF Law Firm's experienced Criminal Defense Team can work with you to assess your case and craft a strategy that will ensure that your rights are protected and enforced during the investigation and help you fully understand what the outcome means for you.

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

Lehigh County residents need to know that, because of the way Pennsylvania's ChildLine system is set up, a ChildLine referral can lead to their name being added to the ChildLine registry without due process – i.e., without receiving any notice or an opportunity to respond.

Therefore, it's crucial to know that if you're referred to ChildLine, you do have certain rights. Specifically, anyone who's the subject of a ChildLine investigation must be notified of:

  • The existence of the report that's been made against them
  • Their right to an attorney
  • Their right to amend or expunge the county's decision and
  • Their right to have an attorney with them at any and all interviews and meetings with county officials.
  • Then, after the investigation takes place, the state has to notify you of:
  • The result of the investigation and the status of the child abuse report against you
  • Your right to request to amend or expunge the report and get your name removed from the ChildLine registry
  • The effect the report will have on your future job and career opportunities
  • The fact that your name, a description of the abuse, and whether your report is indicated or founded will be entered into the ChildLine database
  • Your right to file an appeal within 90 days, and
  • Your right to a hearing on the merits on appeal, where the county has to prove its case by substantial evidence.

If you're referred to ChildLine for child abuse in Lehigh County, the stakes couldn't be higher. The experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm can help you understand what your rights are so you can make informed decisions that will lead to the best possible outcome.

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

If you've been referred to the ChildLine system in Lehigh County, you need an experienced legal team at your side. ChildLine investigations can be emotionally exhausting and intrusive. The process is intense, and even if you're cleared of all wrongdoing, the emotional effects can take a toll on you and your family long after the process wraps up.

Being referred to ChildLine can wreak havoc on all aspects of your life. Having your name on the ChildLine registry can limit where you work, go to school, and volunteer. It can also affect any custody arrangement that you have in place.

Being accused of child abuse can devastate your social and professional reputations, and it can be extremely difficult to restore your good name. Reversing the stigma of being accused of child abuse is a long, uphill battle.

A ChildLine referral isn't something that you should try to handle alone. The best thing you can do the moment you find out that you've been referred to ChildLine in Lehigh County is to talk to the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm.

The LLF Law Firm has years of experience successfully representing Lehigh County clients with ChildLine referrals, investigations, and allegations of abuse and neglect. The knowledgeable Criminal Defense Team can help ensure that your rights are protected every step of the way and that you achieve the best possible outcome and clear your name. Contact the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.

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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