A bold and well-qualified spokesperson has finally confronted the big unspoken issue head-on: too many good parents, whether in custody disputes or just while doing their best as parents, face false allegations of child abuse. Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act intentionally sets a high bar for a Protection from Abuse (PFA) order. Unnecessary and inappropriate PFAs harm both the protected child and the restricted parent. Don't let an opposing parent or over-eager reporter manipulate a good law for bad results or purposes. Ensure that the child welfare system draws a firm line between your own responsible parenting choices and credible allegations of child abuse.
An Expert Speaks Out
Pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Levi holds both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, serves at Penn State College of Medicine and Children's Hospital, founded Penn State's Center for the Protection of Children, and directs the iLookOut for Child Abuse project. Few, if any, have done more to advocate for protecting children against abuse. Yet, in a recent guest editorial titled “Less than Ideal Parenting Doesn't Equal Child Abuse,” Dr. Levi called for the support of federal legislation requiring better training of abuse investigators to distinguish parenting choices from child abuse. It's time to end the abuse of child abuse allegations, investigations, and PFA orders.
Recognizing the Over-Reporting Problem
Dr. Levi's editorial cited some remarkable statistics to bear his argument out. Mandated-reporter laws contribute to an extraordinary seven-million U.S. children referred annually for suspected child abuse. By the time children turn eighteen, child protective services will have screened one in three of them (more than half of all African-American and indigenous children) for some form of assessment. Dr. Levi sees the problem with so many allegations as overwhelming investigative staff. In their hurry to process unmanageable numbers of complaints, investigators err both ways, charging non-abusers with abuse while failing to charge abusers.
Better Training Is Only Part of the Solution
We've surely gone too far with false allegations of abuse when even the choice to send your child outside with a virus-protective mask draws such suggestions. Dr. Levi's editorial advocated for federal legislation funding better training for investigators. His iLookOut for Child Abuse project provides that training. One study shows that it works in getting participants to take its evidence-based reporting standards seriously. But better training for investigators is at best only a partial solution, especially for parents who face false abuse allegations.
Aggressive Defense Is the Sure Solution
It's high time to stop poorly trained and overeager reporters, and especially manipulative litigants, from misusing PFA orders. Pennsylvania's Protection from Abuse Act generally authorizes a PFA only with credible evidence of actual, attempted, or threatened bodily injury. By contrast, words or actions that affect only the child's mental or emotional well-being or that involve parental choices over acceptable activities and their limits should not generally justify PFA orders.
Those who face false or exaggerated allegations of child abuse, whether to manipulate a child-custody proceeding or from poorly trained and over-eager reporters, need aggressive defense representation from Philadelphia criminal-defense attorney Joseph Lento. If you or someone you know faces false allegations of child abuse, then call the Lento Law Firm now at 888-535-3686 or contact us online to learn more.