Perry County ChildLine Appeal Attorneys

Children should be protected from child abuse and neglect. No one, however, benefits when an individual is falsely accused of abuse or neglect. Such accusations not only clog the system and make it more difficult to investigate legitimate claims, but they also carry serious consequences for individuals who are falsely accused.

False accusations of child abuse are not uncommon. These accusations damage a person's reputation, career, and even their ability to see their children. Research has shown lasting psychological impact from a false accusation.

In 2022, Pennsylvania found that 84 percent of reported cases of suspected child abuse were unsubstantiated. Perry County had a significantly lower rate of unsubstantiated cases, with approximately half being found to be valid. That still means that hundreds of individuals were subjected to investigation and fall accusations.

False accusations can have a devastating impact on those accused. These accusations may linger long after they've been disproven. If you've been accused of child abuse or neglect, the LFF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help. We work with individuals throughout Pennsylvania to build cases that disprove these claims or show extenuating circumstances. If you're facing child abuse accusations, contact LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or on our website.

Child Abuse in Perry County

In 2022, Perry County had 564 reports of child abuse and/or neglect. The county has a population of 45,000, with a rate of 59 children assessed for every 1,000 children living in the county.

Dig deeper into the statistics, and the numbers drop significantly. The 2022 survey found that:

  • Of the initial 564 reports, 259 were screened out.
  • Of the assessed reports, 277 were found to be valid.
  • For valid reports, 375 children were assessed.
  • The ratio of children assessed for valid reports was 38 per 1,000 children.

Put another way, for every 1,000 children, approximately 20 were part of invalid investigations.

False accusations don't just affect the accused individual. They can also have serious repercussions on children, potentially limiting their contact with parents or trusted adults and putting them through unnecessary stress.

Based on population, Perry County has a higher percentage of both reported and assessed child abuse compared to statewide numbers. During the same period, Pennsylvania had a total of 39,093 cases of abuse, with over 33,000 unsubstantiated. The statewide total was 14.5 reported cases per 1,000 children and 1.8 substantiated reports for 1,000 children.

What Is ChildLine?

ChildLine is a statewide system for individuals to report suspected child abuse and/or neglect. Provided in conjunction with county departments, such as Perry County Children & Youth Services, the hotline is available 24/7. ChildLine will refer reports to the appropriate agency for further investigation.

Mandated and Permissive Reporters

Pennsylvania has two categories of reports for suspected child abuse: mandated reporters and permissive reporters. Which category a reporter falls into determines what information they must provide.

Mandated Reporters

As the name suggests, mandated reporters must report abuse. Pennsylvania law requires these individuals to report suspected abuse, and the state provides a list of all mandated reporters, such as healthcare professionals and school employees. Mandated reporters must report when they have “reasonable cause to suspect” a child is the victim of abuse in situations such as:

  • They come into contact with a child as part of their job
  • They either have direct responsibility for the child or are part of an organization that has responsibility for the child
  • Another individual makes a “specific disclosure” to them about child abuse

Mandated reporters who fail to report face potential misdemeanor or felony charges. They must use the state's Child Welfare Portal to make a report.

Permissive Reporters and ChildLine

In Pennsylvania, anyone may report child abuse. When that individual is not required to report child abuse, they're known as a permissive reporter. Individuals may notify government agencies for concerns not just for abuse but also neglect, such as inadequate care and/or supervision.

Permissive reporters do not have to witness actual abuse to make a report. The key is whether a report is made in good faith - that is, that the person generally believed a child was in danger or at risk of harm, and the goal in making the call was to protect a child's well-being.

Pennsylvania allows permissive reporters to be anonymous, although anonymous reports make it more difficult for investigators to follow up on reports or ask for clarification. Even for those who supply their name and contact information, the state keeps that information confidential. The exception is that law enforcement or district attorney's offices may receive that information as needed.

For good-faith reporters of child abuse, allowing for anonymity and protection of their identity is important. It allows them to report suspected child abuse without putting their safety – as well as their families - at risk.

For those accused of abuse or neglect, anonymous and confidential reporting may make it more difficult to respond to the accusations. Not knowing a reporter's identity may make it more difficult for the accused to know an individual's motives or how to address their accusation.

Who Can Call ChildLine

Anyone can call Pennsylvania's ChildLine. It isn't limited to Perry County. Individuals in Perry County may call numbers that will refer them directly to county offices.

Individuals should call the Perry County line when they believe the abuse occurred within the county. They should call ChildLine when the abuse occurred outside of Perry County, including outside of Pennsylvania, or when they are unsure of other details about the suspected abuse.

Pennsylvania recommends permissive reporters use ChildLine when:

  • They prefer to remain anonymous
  • They are unsure of where the incident(s) occurred in Pennsylvania
  • They are unsure if a child is in imminent danger and/or at risk of harm
  • They do not have an address or other contact information for the person listed in the report
  • The suspected abuse and/or neglect occurred outside of Pennsylvania
  • A child has extensive or multiple injuries
  • More than eight people were involved in the abuse and/or neglect

Emergencies

In situations when prompt action is needed, Pennsylvania recommends that individuals first call 9-1-1 and then ChildLine. Perry County has a separate phone number for after-hours emergencies.

For those accused of child abuse in emergency situations, one of the difficulties can be that emotions are often running high. Individuals may react or make accusations in the moment that are based more on feeling than logic or fact.

False Reports

Making a false report to ChildLine is a second-degree misdemeanor. Reports made in good faith, even if later shown to be incorrect, will not face punishment. It's when reports are made maliciously that the reporter faces potential charges. Pennsylvania gives four examples of situations that may be considered malicious reports and open to criminal charges. When a reporter makes a report to:

  • Gain child custody
  • Realize a financial gain
  • Personally benefit
  • Harass, embarrass, or harm another person

If you believe someone has made a false report against you, you need to show not only why the report was false but how the person knew or should have known, that the report was false. The LFF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help you build a case against the reporter and show why they acted maliciously in making the report.

What Happens After County Authorities Receive a Report

Whether a report is made via ChildLine or Perry County, when suspected abuse and/or neglect occurs within Perry County, Perry County Children & Youth Services will then investigate the initial report.

The general procedure for a report is four steps:

  • Screening
  • Intake
  • Ongoing services
  • Placement / adoption

During screening, investigators will first determine whether to investigate a report.

If an investigation is pursued, intake caseworkers will investigate the report, including interacting with the family and any possible witnesses. When the person who made the report provides their name and contact information, they may also be questioned by investigators.

After an investigation, a caseworker will make one of four determinations:

  • Unfounded
  • Indicated
  • Founded
  • Pending

Investigations will generally take an average of 30 days, although caseworkers may request an extension if needed. Investigations should not take more than 60 calendar days.

For an unfounded report, the case will be closed. For other determinations, the next actions depend on what the investigation uncovered, including the extent of the abuse.

When caseworkers determine that the family needs continued monitoring or support, the department will assign the family a new caseworker for these ongoing services.

In limited cases, a caseworker will recommend a child be removed from their current home and parents and/or guardians. These children will be placed with foster families or may be adopted.

What to Do When Being Investigated

Being investigated, particularly with allegations as serious as child abuse and/or neglect, can be a source of stress. One of the most important things to keep in mind about the process is to be truthful throughout. Even if you want to hide behaviors or words that may reflect poorly on you, if you are caught omitting or falsifying details, you'll hurt your defense and may help the case against you.

At the same time, investigators, no matter what they say, are not your allies. At best, they're neutral parties who are seeking to find the truth. Some, however, may unfortunately come into an investigation with preconceived notions or already have a decision in mind, regardless of the evidence presented.

An attorney will be on your side. They'll help you build a case and put your words and behavior into context or show how they do not represent you or the situation. An attorney can help you navigate the process and ensure the investigation is carried out in an impartial manner that protects both the involved children and your reputation.

Substantiated Claims

If an investigation finds the claims against you have merit - in other words, that the report is valid - your name will be added to Pennsylvania's ChildLine and Abuse Registry. This registry differs from the Pennsylvania State Police's sexual offender database. The ChildLine Registry lists individuals who have been accused of child abuse, and the general public can access this registry.

Individuals do not have to be convicted of child abuse to be on the ChildLine and Abuse Registry. Even when a charge is unfounded, an individual may still find their name on the list.

Removing Your Name from the ChildLine and Abuse Registry

Individuals may petition to have their name removed from the ChildLine and Abuse Registry. There are generally two pathways that individuals can use to have their name removed:

  1. The discovery of new evidence that alters the original report or investigation
  2. When an individual can show that they do not present a risk to children and your name's inclusion on the list serves no public purpose

How to Appeal

You have the right to appeal the results of an investigation against you. Depending on the specific details of your case, you will have either 45 or 90 days to appeal.

The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Resource Center provides a flowchart about the appeals process. While a good starting point, the flowchart alone is insufficient to mount a strong appeal.

If you have not yet sought legal help, you can still hire an attorney for the appeals process. The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help you determine the best path for your appeal and prepare a case based on the requirements of the appeal. Timing is crucial for filing an appeal, and missing a deadline often bars individuals from appealing.

Protect Your Future

Pennsylvania's ChildLine serves an important public service. Removing children from dangerous situations and making it easy for people to report suspected child abuse are both important and worthy aims. Unfortunately, the high number of unfounded claims through ChildFind means innocent people face potentially life-altering accusations.

Being accused of child abuse or neglect can be stressful, not just because of the impact it can have on your reputation and your relationships but also because of the potential to damage your future. Child abuse accusations raise the possibility of losing custody of your children, limiting your job prospects and potentially even restricting where you can live.

If you've been accused of child abuse, you need someone in your corner. The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help. We work with people throughout Pennsylvania to fight accusations of child abuse. We'll make sure your rights are protected and help you build a case to defend yourself. Tell us about your case by calling us at 888-535-3686 or going to our website.

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.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.

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