In the event that you have been convicted of a crime involving a minor or merely suspected of neglecting or abusing a minor, you are in risk of being “ChildLined,” or placed on a statewide registry as an alleged perpetrator of child abuse by state agencies. Once your name is placed on this registry, your access to specific careers, your child's school, or any other activities around or involving minors will be strictly limited by law.
If you have received notification of child abuse allegations, you should immediately consult with a Philadelphia Childline appeal attorney to appeal this determination. In addition to legal representation, you should also have a basic understanding of Pennsylvania's laws and processes regarding expunging these allegations and getting your name removed from the state's child abuse registry.
For the purposes of this article, we will address (1) Pennsylvania's ChildLine agency and registry and (2) the unique appeals process you will eventually be required to navigate with the help of an attorney.
The ChildLine Registry
Within Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare is an administrative agency known as ChildLine. The ChildLine agency's primary function is to ensure that children throughout the state are protected from neglect and abuse. Through the operation of a toll-free child abuse hotline, the agency receives reports of suspected child abuse from concerned bystanders. If the allegations appear to be plausible at the program's discretion, ChildLine along with the General Protective Services to the county children and youth agency will launch a countywide or statewide investigation to gauge whether or not these claims of child abuse are founded. If the investigator's findings indicate that this report is founded, the accused will be notified of the report that has been entered against them and will consequently be placed on the ChildLine registry.
There are severe consequences for being listed. Essentially, an individual will be prohibited from being in the vicinity of children in social, private and professional settings. Parents who are listed on the registry are not allowed to partake in their children's activities, such as acting as a chaperone on a field trip or attending school open houses. Any form of employment involving children is forbidden for those on the registry, even jobs that may seldom involve minors. For example, let's say you work at a company that furnishes schools from time to time. Your job could potentially be in jeopardy once your name is placed on the ChildLine registry.
Although ChildLine serves a necessary and noble purpose in the state, people who have not abused or neglected their kids in accordance with state law may sometimes feel they have been disserviced as a result of the agency's processes. This reigns especially true in Pennsylvania, where an individual can be put on a registry alongside pedophiles and actual child abusers before a court hearing ensues. The decision to be put on the registry is based heavily on the discretion of social workers, who have been responsible for a number discrepancies throughout the years. A recent article shed light on this issue, stating that in 2011, nearly 23% of the appeals hearings led to the removal of names on the registry. One percent of the decisions were upheld, two percent of the appeals were withdrawn and 71% of the cases were still pending. Since then, there has been no legislative reform of ChildLine, due to the justification of refusing to soften agency processes and guidelines for wrongdoers to slip through the cracks. However, the option to appeal is available to people who feel that the allegations made against them are unjust or unfair.
The ChildLine Appeals Process
People facing ChildLine allegations are given a set timeframe that is allocated towards appealing and ultimately expunging their allegations. An expungement is a process of eliminating old and inaccurate convictions or allegations from a record. In cases involving ChildLine, an expungement leads to the removal of a person's name from a registry along with any related documentation of the instance of suspected child abuse.
Once a person is notified of being an alleged perpetrator of child abuse, he or she is given some time to appeal and request a hearing to reconsider the facts of a case. It's important to note that these deadlines are strict, and should be thoroughly followed for the best results. Although ChildLine does sometimes consider “untimely requests” - an appeal that is not submitted within the given time frame - they may not do so in your case. Nevertheless, previous experiences of late petitioners are a testament to the fact that untimely requests are rarely granted.
Once a hearing request is received, a hearing officer must revisit the facts of a case with the basis of an appeal in mind. Due to a reason court decision (G.V. v. Department of Public Welfare, 125 C.D. 2011 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2012), the child protective agency is required to prove that an alleged perpetrator did abuse or neglect a child with “clear and convincing” evidence. This is a higher standard imposed upon the agency than the previously upheld “substantial evidence” standard.
ChildLine appeals in Pennsylvania are scheduled and held at the applicable Department of Human Services (DHS) Bureau of Hearing and Appeals Regional Office. Philadelphia ChildLine appeal cases will almost always be heard at the Southeastern Region office which is located in Philadelphia at the following location:
Philadelphia State Office Building
Commonwealth of PA
Department of Human Services
801 Market Street, Suite 5005
Philadelphia, PA 19107
If ChildLine fails to provide the standard of evidence that is required for an alleged perpetrator to be deemed guilty of child abuse and neglect, the perpetrator will be granted an expungement.
Philadelphia ChildLine Appeal Attorney
Being placed on the ChildLine registry adversely impacts your freedom and livelihood. People listed on this registry are prohibited from working with or around children, therefore resulting in restricted access to careers in a variety of industries. Being labeled a perpetrator of child abuse can also prevent you from being active in your child's education since you are forbidden from partaking in school events and activities. Jobs that don't even require you to work around children or extracurricular program coordinators may feel inclined to deny you due to the stigma that is inherently attached to child abuse allegations, making it difficult to make a decent living or enjoy activities you are interested in.
If you have been notified by an agency that you have been given a “founded” record of abuse, you should challenge this determination. Attorney Joseph D. Lento will help you review your case, weigh your options and provide a solid defense to have your ChildLine findings completely expunged from the agency's registry. Contact him today for help.