Every day, unsuspecting Philadelphia County residents are referred to Pennsylvania's ChildLine system for suspected child abuse. Being placed on the ChildLine registry – which is sometimes called getting "ChildLined" – can be devastating. People on the ChildLine registry can't work in certain jobs and can't volunteer in their communities wherever they'd like to. Any child custody arrangements they have might be changed. They also have to deal with the burden of a ChildLine investigation and the stigma of being a suspected child abuser.
The seriousness of a child abuse accusation and how it will affect your life can be overwhelming. 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. With so much at stake, you need the best legal team possible.
The knowledgeable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm have years of experience helping Philadelphia County residents with ChildLine referrals and investigations, in addition to all kinds of criminal and family law issues. Call us at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form to get the best legal help available in Philadelphia County.
What Is Pennsylvania's ChildLine System?
Although the registry isn't available to the general public, some employers are able to access it and make hiring – and firing – decisions based on who's on the list.
Having your name listed in the ChildLine registry can drastically affect your life and livelihood. It will limit where you can work, where you can volunteer, and can even affect your child custody arrangement. What's worse is that once you're on the list, it's extremely tough to get off of it. And, in many cases, people don't even know what ChildLine is until after they've been put on the list.
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 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, which they have 60 days to complete. They can interview anyone who has any information about the case, including the accused person, their friends, spouses, exes, kids, and co-workers.
In addition to contacting the county, ChildLine sometimes contacts law enforcement officials. In fact, it's very 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 they 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, your best chance of success is to contact the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm for help.
ChildLine Referrals in Philadelphia County
In Philadelphia, the Department Human Services (DHS), which is overseen by the Office of Children and Families (OCF), receives reports of suspected abuse and neglect from the ChildLine system for incidents that happen within Philadelphia County and also those that involve children who live in Philadelphia. They also operate and oversee their own child abuse hotline. DHS assesses the allegations and determines what, if any, further action is needed.
In 2023, the number of reports of suspected child abuse and neglect made to Philadelphia's DHS increased by four percent from 2022. More than half of the reports were screened out – and thrown out – and only less than half were actually investigated.
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. Co-workers, neighbors, and even strangers can also make false reports for their own personal reasons.
Philadelphia County is attempting to weed out bogus reports of child abuse that it receives through ChildLine and other avenues by running the reports through a screening process. But this process isn't bulletproof and doesn't catch every false report. That's why it's crucial to contact the knowledgeable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm as soon as you're notified that you're the subject of a ChildLine referral.
Who Can Make a ChildLine Report?
You might be surprised to know that, in Pennsylvania, anyone can make an anonymous accusation of child abuse to ChildLine. 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.
Pennsylvania law 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.
Mandated reporters are people who work in many different jobs where they frequently come in contact with kids and families, so the law imposes a special responsibility on them with regard to reporting suspected child abuse and neglect. These jobs and professions include healthcare workers, teachers, counselors, daycare workers, police officers, social workers, and religious officials.
Mandated reporters can make their ChildLine reports by phone, or they can submit them via ChildLine's online submission 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 – unless they intentionally file a false report that's made with malicious intent. There's also a general presumption in Pennsylvania that all 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 and sometimes 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 Philadelphia 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 because it will determine whether or not your name is added to the ChildLine registry. After their investigation, ChildLine investigators determine whether a child abuse report is unfounded, indicated, or founded, and your fate hinges on how they categorize the report.
If the county determines 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 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 is given founded status means that there's a judicial adjudication – such as a trial verdict – that found substantial evidence of child abuse, and your name will be added to the ChildLine registry.
Having your name on the ChildLine registry can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. It will also 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 know that a ChildLine investigation isn't a criminal investigation. But, in some circumstances, a criminal investigation might take place alongside your ChildLine investigation. So, it's possible that you could 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 could still face criminal charges.
The outcome of a ChildLine investigation can affect you for the rest of your life. The county's decision can also be difficult to understand, and all of the 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?
Many Philadelphia County residents aren't aware that, because of the way Pennsylvania's ChildLine system is set up, a ChildLine referral can mean that they're added to the ChildLine registry without due process – i.e., without receiving any notice or an opportunity to respond. But it's important for you 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 child abuse or neglect 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 or meetings with county officials.
After the investigation, the state has to notify you of:
Philadelphia County ChildLine Referrals Attorney
● The result of the investigation and the status of the child abuse report
● 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 Philadelphia County, the stakes couldn't get higher. Having the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm at your side can help ensure that you know your rights and can make decisions that will help you achieve the best possible outcome.
How the LLF Law Firm Can Help You if You've Been Referred to ChildLine in Philadelphia County
If you've been referred to the ChildLine system in Philadelphia 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 long after the process wraps up. Being accused of child abuse can devastate your social and professional reputations, and it can be extremely difficult to restore your good name. This isn't something that you should try to take on alone.
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. Reversing the stigma of being accused of child abuse is a long, uphill battle. The best thing you can do the moment you find out that you've been referred to ChildLine is to talk to the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm.
The LLF Law Firm has years of experience successfully representing Philadelphia 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. Contact the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form to get the best legal representation possible to defend yourself and clear your name.