Mifflin County ChildLine Appeal Attorneys

If you are facing a ChildLine Investigation in Mifflin County, you are likely shattered and extremely anxious. Although most ChildLine accusations are deemed unfounded, some parents may find themselves needlessly complying with every unlawful part of an investigation out of fear that their children will be taken away forever. Although ChildLine Investigators play an essential role in keeping children safe, they are bound by federal and state laws to ensure parents are treated fairly and equitably.

If you are fighting a ChildLine abuse allegation in Mifflin County or considering a ChildLine Appeal, consider contacting the LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team. Contact us today for a free consultation by calling us at 888-535-3686 or online through our confidential contact form. Our Team is waiting to guide you through this difficult time.

Mifflin County, Pennsylvania

Mifflin County, located in the central part of the state, is known as one of the more mountainous regions near the Appalachians. The county is comprised of 46 Boroughs, Communities, and Townships, some of which include:

According to the 2020 Child Protective Services Report drafted by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services ("DHS,") of the 211 child abuse allegations in Mifflin County, only 33 were substantiated. Most of the substantiated reports involved instances of sexual abuse, followed by physical abuse, and lastly, physical neglect.

Mifflin County Children and Youth Services

Allegations of suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment in the county are reported to the Mifflin County Children and Youth Service (MCCYS"). Under federal and state law, Mifflin County offers child protective services in instances of physical, mental, and sexual abuse, as well as instances of neglect or imminent risk. Imminent risk can occur when an adult places a child in a dangerous or compromising position and fails to act with appropriate protection to ensure the child is safe.

Although MCCYS's goal is always to keep families intact, in some cases, MCCYS may need to remove children to keep them safe while the parents work on bettering themselves. Should this be the case, MCCYS will help facilitate visitation between the parent(s) and the child(ren), help coordinate medical and mental health care for the family, and help orchestrate countless other services that are designed to help the parents provide a safe home in the future. Some examples of these services include substance abuse programs, parenting classes, anger management, and medication management. If the parent(s) fail to take advantage of these programs or make adequate progress, MCCYS can petition to place the child up for adoption or ask that a guardian be appointed.

In other less severe instances, MCCYS may intervene to help a family when the alleged neglect may be beyond the parent's control. In these instances, MCCYS can offer the family General Protective Services, which may consist of the following:

  • Help secure housing, food, or clothing.
  • Assistance obtaining proper health care, health insurance, counseling, etc.
  • Transportation issues that may be leading to unemployment or truancy.
  • Guidance on proper forms of discipline, supervision, or hygiene.
  • Assistance with any other problem that "threatens a child's opportunity for healthy growth and development."
  • After-school childcare or tutoring.

While MCCYS investigators receive thorough training, there can be occasions where simple misconceptions, oversights, or gaps in expertise lead them to initiate ChildLine investigations based on unsubstantiated claims of child abuse. In these instances, parents need to have working knowledge of the applicable federal and state laws and the laws that protect their family throughout a ChildLine investigation or appeal.

The ChildLine System in Pennsylvania

MCCYS utilizes the ChildLine System of Pennsylvania, a state-designed and mandated system that receives, investigates, and refers allegations of suspected child abuse claims. To ensure that the MCCYS is always available to respond to any emergency requests, DHS runs ChildLine as a 24-hour hotline available anytime, day or night. Permissive or Mandated Reporters call this hotline if they suspect potential child abuse. ChildLine speaks with the caller and determines whether the matter needs to be referred to a separate agency, such as law enforcement or emergency personnel, and whether a ChildLine investigator warrants further investigation.

The ChildLine Registry

The ChildLine Registry is a distinct function of the more extensive ChildLine System. The Registry operates as a compulsory statewide database that stores the names of substantiated child abusers. Having your name on the registry can have consequential ramifications, affecting your ability to gain employment, secure housing, have minor relatives live with you, or return to work in government roles.

ChildLine Reports

Pennsylvania State Code Title 23, Chapter 63, entitled "Child Protective Services," outlines the policies and procedures that must be followed throughout a ChildLine report, investigation, and referral. As discussed above, ChildLine investigations are first triggered when a ChildLine worker receives a report of alleged child abuse from a permissive or mandated reporter. These reports can be obtained via the toll-free hotline at 1-800-525-7938 or via the Child Welfare Portal.

Mandated Versus Permissive Reporters

Mandated Reporters

Under Pennsylvania state law, some individuals, identified as "Mandated Reporters," are legally obligated to report any suspected instances of child abuse or neglect. Mandated Reporters are typically professionals who work in fields closely associated with children or families, such as educators, social workers, and therapists. Mandated Reporters receive formal training from the state on how to identify signs of possible child abuse and neglect. They must keep a working knowledge of these signs while interacting with their clients.

Mandated reporters can also include people who regularly volunteer with children, such as camp counselors, tutors, or church volunteers. Individuals in these roles receive training from their larger organization on how to identify signs of possible abuse.

Finally, mandated reporters may include those who work in an official government role, such as firemen, police officers, social workers, etc.

Failure to report suspected child abuse as a mandated reporter can lead to serious legal consequences, ranging from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.

Permissive Reporters

Permissive Reporters are all remaining members of the public who are encouraged, though not legally obligated, to report suspected child abuse. Examples of permissive reporters may include neighbors, colleagues, friends, or family members who suspect that a child may have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused or neglected. Unlike mandated reporters, who must provide their contact information to the ChildLine investigator, permissive reporters can remain anonymous when making their reports.

The Investigatory Process

If MCCYS is investigating you, you are likely anxious to know what the next few weeks, months, or potentially years of your life may look like. Although each case will vary depending on the circumstances, all ChildLine cases must operate in accordance with the law by ensuring that parents receive Due Process. Due Process is a constitutional law term that means parents have the right to be notified about the allegations against them and the opportunity to present their side of the story before a neutral decision-maker. The investigative process typically occurs in the following steps to ensure that Due Process requirements are met.

The Investigation Phase

After receiving a report of suspected child abuse, MCCYS formally investigates the alleged claims. Throughout the process, MCCYS will consider whether the allegations constitute child abuse within the context of Chapter 63. Some examples of child abuse within the context of Chapter 63 include:

  • Physical abuse through bodily harm or failure to act to prevent bodily harm.
  • Sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or failure to protect a minor from sexual abuse.
  • Serious physical neglect.
  • Ignoring, fabricating, or intentionally exaggerating a medical condition.
  • Unreasonable confinement.
  • Exposing a minor to an unsafe environment or location where injury, crime, or abuse is likely to occur.

If a ChildLine investigator determines that possible abuse or neglect is involved, they must commence further investigation within a 24-hour timeframe. Throughout investigations, Investigators will commonly seek more information about the minor by seeking out family, friends, and neighbors who have regular contact with the family. Investigators may also want to contact others who know your child well, such as their educators or teachers.

Investigators may also decide to conduct an announced or unannounced home visit. During these visits, Investigators look for additional signs that point to abuse or neglect. Some signs of possible abuse or neglect during a home visit may include:

  • Inadequate food or clothing.
  • Cleanliness issues.
  • Dangerous animals.
  • Exposed wiring or hazardous materials.
  • Signs of drug use or physical abuse.

If ChildLine investigators determine no cause for concern, they may close the case. Investigators may also recommend removing a child from the home or offering the family a proactive approach through intervention services. These General Services, discussed above, provide parents with support and may include food stamps, parenting classes, substance abuse counseling, etc.

MCCYS Confirmed Allegations Against Me, Now What?

If the allegations against you are substantiated, MCCYS will immediately enter your name into the ChildLine Registry. At this point, you will likely want to request to remove your name from the registry and/or appeal the allegations against you. Removing your name can be difficult, especially while navigating the state's complex bureaucratic system.

What Exactly Does a ChildLine Appeal Look Like?

You may want to appeal against the ChildLine findings, depending on your circumstances. Appealing ChildLine decisions takes work and requires a great deal of focus and patience. You will only have a short time to decide, as ChildLine appeals must typically be submitted within 90 days of the order substantiating the allegations.

Appeals are most often addressed in one of the two following ways. Firstly, the state's Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF) can conduct an administrative review of your case. If this is not an option, you may request a hearing before the Bureau of Hearings and Appeal(BHA). In the event of an unfavorable outcome at the BHA level, a final opportunity for appeal may be available through DHS.

An appeal hearing is a large task. Although an appeal will allow you to present testimony, exhibits, evidence, and witnesses who dispute the substantiated claims against you, they are highly formulaic and depend on exact adherence to rules of procedure and evidence. Failure to follow these rules can amount to a failed hearing. Should the state of Pennsylvania fail to establish by "clear and convincing evidence" that the allegations against you were true, the state must overturn the findings against you and remove your name from the ChildLine Registry.

How Can I Get My Name Removed From the ChildLine Registry?

As noted above, your name can be removed from the ChildLine Registry following a favorable appeal. However, one of the following avenues can also remove your name. Firstly, the Secretary of the Department of Human Services (DHS) may remove your name if newly discovered evidence emerges indicating that the child abuse reports against you were false. These types of arguments will vary from case to case but will also largely depend on your persistence in making this argument to DHS in the first place. Secondly, DHS may remove your name if you can prove that you longer pose a risk to children. Both routes require a substantial amount of effort, time, and resources.

If you have suffered the consequences of having your name on the ChildLine Registry, contact the LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team for help! Our Team has extensive experience handling these requests and will use the most strategic methods available.

Work With a ChildLine Attorney in Mifflin County

Our LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is well-equipped to provide the assistance you need to fight the ChildLine allegations you are facing or file the appeal you have been contemplating. With years of experience, we know the strategies and tools it takes to face Pennsylvania's ChildLine system, and we are fully prepared to safeguard your rights and fight for your family. Contact us today for a confidential consultation by calling 888-535-3686 or utilizing our online contact 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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