Potter County ChildLine Appeal Attorneys

While some ChildLine investigations in Potter County cover actual abuse, it's essential to know that most allegations are deemed unsubstantiated. While many child abuse allegations often arise from genuine concern for a child's safety, they can sometimes be the result of personal conflicts, cultural misunderstandings, or even vendettas. Further complications can arise if the case is assigned to a ChildLine Investigator who is not adequately trained or views a family's dynamics through their subjective experiences.

If you are currently being investigated for child abuse in Potter County and would like to appeal a ChildLine decision, contact the LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team. Not every ChildLine investigation is legitimate, and defenses are available. Contact us today for help by calling (888) 535-3686 or using our online contact form. Together, we can safeguard your family's future and ensure you are treated fairly under the law.

Potter County, Pennsylvania

Potter County, the fifth most populous county in Pennsylvania, is home to a beautiful triple divide where Chesapeake Bay, St. Lawrence River, and the Mississippi River all meet. Some of the cities, boroughs, townships, and towns located in the county include:

  • Abbott Township
  • Allegany Township
  • Austin Borough
  • Bingham Township
  • Clara Township
  • Clodersport Borough
  • Eulalia Township
  • Galeton Borough
  • Ganesee Township
  • Harrison Township
  • Hebron Township
  • Hector Township
  • Homer Township
  • Keating Township
  • Oswayo Borough
  • Pike Township
  • Pleasant Valley Township
  • Portage Township
  • Roulette Township
  • Sharon Township
  • Shinglehouse Borough
  • Stewardson Township
  • Summit Township
  • Sweeden Township
  • Sylvania Township
  • Ulysses Borough
  • West Branch Township
  • Wharton Township

According to the 2020 Child Protective Services Report drafted by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, of the 91 child abuse allegations in Potter County, only six were substantiated. Most of the substantiated reports involved instances of sexual abuse, followed by physical abuse, and lastly, physical neglect.

Potter County Children, Youth, and Family Services

Allegations of suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment in the county are reported to the Potter County Children and Youth Services ("PCCYS"), the county agency responsible for investigating child abuse and neglect reports.

PCCYS is a division under the control and direction of the state's Department of Human Services, which also partners with other child-centered agencies in the County to assist struggling parents, such as Northern Tier Children's Home, Parent's Anonymous of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania's Children's Partnership.

Although PCCYS should always structure their involvement with families to allow children to stay with their parents, who simultaneously receive supportive assistance, this may not always be possible. In instances of severe abuse and neglect, PCCYS may also advocate removing the children from the home or a designated period or, as a last resort, terminate parental rights while pursuing adoption or guardianship.

Some of the various types of services PCCYS provides to families facing a DCP&P investigation or case include:

  • Case Management
  • CASSP, a program that assists juvenile delinquents or juveniles struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Childcare assistance
  • Counseling
  • Crisis Intervention for parents, children, and whole families, especially in instances of mental health crisis.
  • Emergency Shelter
  • Group Home Service
  • Homemaking Education and Support
  • In-Home Services
  • Independent Living Skills for juveniles who become emancipated or are transitioning into adulthood.
  • Mentoring for children, parents, or whole families
  • Parent Education
  • Parenting Support Groups
  • Placement services for children who need foster care, adoption, or guardianship services.
  • Protective Services for children who must be removed from their home.

Pennsylvania's ChildLine System

PCCYS utilizes the state's ChildLine system, a mandated program designed to investigate and report instances of suspected abuse. ChildLine further operates a round-the-clock hotline dedicated to receiving calls and conducting initial interviews with individuals who report alleged cases of child abuse. After receiving a ChildLine report, Investigators can direct the case to relevant agencies, including law enforcement bodies, or appropriate child protective agencies, such as PCCYS.

The ChildLine Registry

The ChildLine Registry operates in conjunction with the state's ChildLine Registry – a state-operated database that records the names of individuals with substantiated or confirmed child abuse allegations. Because the Registry is accessible through background checks, including your name, it can lead to severe consequences, affecting your ability to gain employment, housing, etc. Family law courts may also be informed that your name is on the registry, leading to complications in child custody or visitation matters.

I've Heard the Term Mandated Reporter. What Does That Mean?

Some individuals, known as "Mandated Reporters," are required under Pennsylvania state law to report instances of suspected child abuse. Mandated Reporters receive state training so they are equipped to recognize the signs and symptoms of possible abuse. If Mandated Reporters fail in their reporting duties, they can face felony convictions in the third degree or higher.

Mandated Reporters are typically in child- or family-focused professional or volunteer roles. Mandated Reporters can range from government employees like educators and police officers to private medical professionals and summer camp or church volunteers.

Permissive Reporters

Any adult in Pennsylvania who is not a Mandated Reporter is a Permissive Reporter, someone who is encouraged rather than legally required to report suspected abuse. In some respects, Permissive Reporters may be more likely to witness abuse since parents may not be as guarded around them as they would with a Mandated Reporter in an official role. Permissive Reporters can include people like your neighbors, extended family members, or friends. While Permissive Reporters don't face legal consequences for failure to report, they can face legal consequences for intentionally reporting false information. This may happen in instances of personal vendettas, family arguments, etc.

What Should I Expect During a ChildLine Investigation?

While every ChildLine investigation will differ from family to family in certain respects, some commonalities can be predicted due to their procedural and legal requirements. For instance, after a ChildLine worker receives a referral alleging abuse, they have 24 hours to launch an official investigation into the accusations. If ChildLine feels the allegations can be substantiated, they can refer the matter to appropriate county agencies for further handling, such as PCCYS in Potter County. At that stage, PCCYS will conduct further investigation and recommend dismissing the allegations, sustaining them with rehabilitative services in place, or, in extreme instances, terminating parental rights.

The reporting and investigation phase of a ChildLine Investigation is explored more below.

The Reporting Phase

ChildLine investigations begin once a ChildLine worker receives a referral call on the hotline. During this call, ChildLine Workers must ensure they have the information from the caller they need to conduct the investigation. While most calls remain anonymous, Mandated Reporters are typically asked to provide their contact information should the worker have questions down the road. Workers then have 24 hours to commence an investigation.

The Investigation Phase

ChildLine Workers have 24 hours to initiate an investigation upon receiving a report. Throughout this investigation, Investigators investigate the family's dynamics to determine whether possible child abuse exists as defined under the state's protective services laws, Chapter 63. It's imperative that Investigators weigh a family's circumstances against Chapter 63 instead of their own feelings or instincts. Objective evidentiary analysis is necessary throughout these investigations because a subjective analysis can yield biased results due to cultural, ethnic, or religious values. Some examples of actions (or failures to act) that are considered child abuse under Chapter 63 include:

  • Inflicting bodily harm through either an affirmative act or a failure to act.
  • Deliberately creating or feigning medical symptoms or grossly exaggerating them, leading to potentially harmful medical evaluations or procedures.
  • Causing mental injury, again, either through a specific act or neglect.
  • Engaging in or failing to prevent sexual abuse or exploitation.
  • Acting in a way or failing to act in a manner that creates a substantial risk of bodily harm.
  • Severely neglecting the physical needs of the child.
  • Physically assaulting a child in ways such as kicking, biting, throwing, burning, stabbing, or cutting.
  • Imposing unreasonable restraint or confinement on a child.
  • Vigorously shaking a child under one year of age or slapping a child of such a tender age.
  • Exposing a child to dangerous environments or situations where criminal activity is likely.
  • Leaving a child unsupervised in the company of an individual known to be a sexual predator.

Can Investigators Interview People About My Family?

Under Section 3490.55 of the Pennsylvania State Code, Investigators must also conduct interviews with any persons who know or are suspected of learning about the alleged child abuse incident, such as family members, parents, neighbors, teachers, etc.

Depending on the allegations involved and the severity of the alleged abuse, Investigators may also consult with professionals, such as doctors, medical providers, etc., about the child's well-being. If physical abuse or sexual abuse allegations are involved, PCCYS may even seek orders that allow them to have the child medically or forensically examined, a comprehensive evaluation conducted by professionals trained to recognize signs and symptoms of abuse.

Can Investigators Come To My Home?

Investigators may also visit the family home to assess the child's living conditions. During this visit, Investigators prioritize looking for signs of abuse or neglect. Some potential symptoms include abuse or neglect, such as evidence of drug use, unsanitary conditions, or weapons. Other signs of abuse in the home may include:

  • Lack of adequate food or clothing.
  • Exposed wiring or unsafe conditions.
  • Inadequate safety measures, such as baby gates, fences, etc.
  • Hazardous materials such as mold, mildew, or pet feces.

What Happens Once a ChildLine Investigation Is Over?

If ChildLine Investigators feel the child is safe, they may deem the allegations unsubstantiated and close the case. The Investigators can also offer intervention services to help the family rather than punish the parents. Some of these services include counseling, childcare assistance, parenting classes, domestic violence services, and federal financial assistance.

What Happens if PCCYS Confirms Allegations?

If PCCYS confirms the allegations against you, your name will immediately be added to the ChildLine Registry. Fortunately, you can request to have your name removed from the Registry if you can prove one of the following:

  1. You no longer pose a risk of harm to minors due to completion of programs such as substance counseling, anger management, etc., or
  2. New Evidence shows that the allegations substantiated against you are false.

As noted above, having your name on the Registry can have life-altering consequences. While requesting an administrative removal from the Registry can be challenging, our LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team has experience maneuvering Pennsylvania's bureaucratic red tape. It can help you navigate these next steps.

Can I Appeal the Allegations Against Me?

You may have already had ChildLine allegations substantiated against you. In addition to requesting administrative removal, you may wonder if you can challenge the allegations through an official appeal. ChildLine appeals should typically be filed within 90 days after accusations against you are confirmed. Appeals can either be processed through an administrative request made to the Office of Children, Youth, and Families ("OCYF") or through an administrative hearing before the Bureau of Hearings and Appeal ("BHA")

Our LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can walk you through the steps leading up to an administrative hearing and represent you at the hearing itself. Administrative hearings require an in-depth understanding of state child protection laws, civil procedures, and rules of evidence. Both sides present opening and closing arguments, evidence, testimony, and cross-examination during the hearing. The state must prove by "clear and convincing evidence during the hearing." If an appeal request is unsuccessful, you may be able to file an additional appeal before a court.

Work With a ChildLine Attorney in Potter County

If you are navigating a ChildLine investigation or appeal in Potter County, you need help understanding the procedures, laws, and strategies involved. Our LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has experienced challenging ChildLine accusations and navigating ChildLine appeals. We know what it takes to fight the state's administrative agencies and bureaucratic roadblocks. Contact us for help by calling (888) 535-3686 or using 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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