Pennsylvania's ChildLine has put parents in unprecedented peril from allegations of abuse—including accusations from their own kids, as one case in Allegheny Township shows.
Parents Nevin and Leann Lawson faced an unexpected criminal investigation after one of their kids called ChildLine. The allegations: That the parents kept locks on their freezer, cabinets, and bathrooms. The child also complained of “constant surveillance” from nearly 20 in-home cameras.
Westmoreland County eventually filed felony charges against the couple. While the couple did reach a plea deal, the children were removed from the Lawson's household as part of the criminal proceedings.
You have to wonder, did the reporting child think they'd be removed from their parents when they filed the report through ChildLine?
Can Children Understand the Ramifications of Reporting Mistreatment by Parents?
The case of Nevin and Leann Lawson brings up a couple of concerns:
- Do children have the capacity to understand the ramifications of calling ChildLine on their parents?
- Should minors have the power to, essentially, instigate a criminal proceeding against their parents with a single phone call?
In the Lawson's case, their 17-year-old child was the one who reportedly called ChildLine. The parents' attorney states that the teenager was “manipulating the system” when he called ChildLine, allegedly fabricating the claim about locked cabinets. The attorney also claimed that only cabinets containing alcohol and medications were locked.
As is often the case, the image of the Lawson family appears to be more complex than one or two news reports can capture. Wife Leann reportedly filed for a Protection From Abuse (PFA) order against her husband Nevin in September 2021, which does cast additional doubt on the stability of the household.
Regardless of the facts in the Lawson case, there remain serious questions about ChildLine and, in particular, the ability for minors to allege abuse in such an easy, instantaneous manner.
Young People Are Prone to Rash, Short-Sighted Actions
It is absolutely vital that we enable young people to report instances of abuse, including mistreatment by a parent. That said, we must also recognize the emotional and logical rollercoasters that teenagers ride on a daily basis.
In the heat of an intense disagreement with parents, can we trust minors not to pick up a phone and make a false claim of abuse? Sure, this scenario is unlikely for families in Pennsylvania. But when emotions run high, and teenagers feel justified, anything is possible.
Dialing a hotline is simply too easy when it comes to allegations as serious as child abuse or neglect. At least when a child reports mistreatment to a school counselor, they must take a night to sleep on it before going to school and logging a complaint. Conversely, the ChildLine remains available at all hours, providing no built-in cooling-off period for kids who might make baseless, anger-driven claims against their parents.
Don't Try to Fight a ChildLine Abuse Claim Yourself—Hire a Capable Lawyer to Represent You
If you're the target of a ChildLine complaint, you must get legal help right away. Countless cases, like those of Nevin and Leann Lawson, have quickly spiraled out of control. Jail time, lost custody, and a permanent criminal record are real possibilities when ChildLine complaints occur.
Call Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or submit your case details online. The Lento Law Firm will work hard to protect your good name.