Sullivan County ChildLine Appeal Attorneys

Every year, thousands of Pennsylvania residents are put on the state's ChildLine child abuse registry. Unfortunately, many people don't even know what ChildLine is until after they wind up on the list. Finding out that your name's been added to the registry — that you've been "ChildLined," as it's often referred to — can change your life forever.

This is because being ChildLined can affect all aspects of your life and can affect your ability to earn a living. People who are listed on the ChildLine registry can't work or volunteer in certain places and have to face the potentially lifelong stigma of having been accused of child abuse.

Child abuse allegations are extremely serious. You might be afraid of how they'll affect your life and not know what to do or who to turn to. Defending yourself against child abuse allegations is complicated and time-consuming and can also be overwhelming and emotionally draining. On top of that, dealing with the intrusiveness of a child abuse investigation is probably one of the most stressful situations you'll ever face in your life. With so much at stake, you shouldn't handle such a serious matter alone.

The LLF Law Firm has years of experience successfully representing clients in Sullivan County who are facing child abuse allegations and are under investigation by ChildLine. Our knowledgeable Criminal Defense Team can help you understand how ChildLine investigations work and help you mount a vigorous defense. We'll be in your corner every step of the way. Contact us at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.

What Is ChildLine?

ChildLine is a 24-hour hotline that Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services established to prevent child abuse and neglect. Generally, when ChildLine receives a report of suspected child abuse, within 24 hours, they refer the matter to the Child, Youth, and Family Services department in the county where the incident is alleged to have occurred or where the child lives.

In Sullivan County, the Office for Children and Youth Services (OCYS) receives ChildLine reports of suspected child abuse for incidents that happen within Sullivan County and that involve children who live in Sullivan County. OCYS then assesses the allegations and determines what, if any, additional action is needed.

Although theChildLine registry isn't available to the general public, some employers can access it to make hiring – and firing – decisions based on who's on the list. The ChildLine registry lists the names of people whose child abuse reports have been given "indicated" or "founded" status at the conclusion of a ChildLine investigation.

Having your name in the ChildLine registry affects your life and livelihood in many ways. To make matters worse, once your name's on the list, it's very tough to remove it. If you've been notified that your name has been added to the ChildLine registry or have been accused of child abuse in Sullivan County, The LLF Law Firm can help you understand what's at stake and help you defend yourself and restore your reputation.

Who Can Make a ChildLine Report?

In Pennsylvania, anyone can make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect to ChildLine. In fact, Pennsylvania encourages anyone who reasonably suspects that a child is being abused or neglected to report the matter to ChildLine or to local authorities. The state encourages these so-called "permissive" reporters – i.e., people who aren't required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect – to make their reports to ChildlLine and encourages them to do so by allowing them to file their reports anonymously.

Some people, however, are required by law to report suspected child abuse and neglect. These mandated reporters must report any suspected child abuse or neglect that they're aware of. Mandated reporters can actually face criminal liability if they don't report the suspected child abuse or neglect that they're aware of.

Mandated reporters are held to this high standard because they generally work in jobs where they come into contact with kids and families on a regular basis. They have a special responsibility when it comes to reporting suspected child abuse. Mandated reporters include teachers, healthcare workers, social workers, law enforcement officers, daycare workers, and religious organization personnel.

Mandated reporters can make ChildLine reports by phone or via ChildLine's online submission system. But, unlike permissive reporters, mandated reporters can't make their ChildLine reports anonymously. They must include their name and contact information in their reports. But because mandated reporters can't make their child abuse reports anonymously, the state protects them from civil liability – unless they file a false report with malicious intent – and keeps their names confidential.

Although there's a general presumption under Pennsylvania law that mandated child abuse reports are made in good faith, unfortunately, people do sometimes make false child abuse reports to ChildLine. For example, someone involved in a heated divorce or messy child custody battle might falsely accuse their ex of child abuse in an attempt to gain a favorable outcome for themselves. A co-worker, colleague, or even a neighbor might make false child abuse allegations against you in order to get ahead professionally, to settle a personal score, or for reasons that only they are aware of.

The problem of false child abuse accusations may be compounded by the fact that anyone can make anonymous reports of child abuse or neglect through the state's ChildLine reporting system. If you're facing ChildLine child abuse allegations, the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm can help you vigorously defend yourself against them and help you get your life back on track.

What Happens After a ChildLine Report Is Made?

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. So, if ChildLine receives a report of suspected child abuse that happened in Sullivan County or that involves a child who lives in Sullivan County, they'll forward the report to the Sullivan County Office of Children & Youth Services (OCYS). A Sullivan County OCYS investigator will then assess the allegations and determine whether or not the report alleges behavior that constitutes child abuse or neglect. Sullivan County OCYS investigates reports of suspected child abuse within 24 hours.

If the report sufficiently alleges child abuse, OCYS will then open an investigation into the allegations and has 60 days to complete it. During the investigation, OCYS can interview anyone who has any information about the report, including the accused person, their exes, spouse, children, friends, co-workers, and employers.

Pennsylvania often takes a multidisciplinary approach to child abuse cases. This means that, in some circumstances, in addition to contacting the county OCYS, ChildLine will also contact law enforcement officials who will work together with social services agencies to investigate child abuse allegations.

If the accused offender is a licensed Pennsylvania professional, ChildLine might also contact the appropriate state licensing board about the child abuse report. The licensing board can then assess the allegations and decide whether to impose any sanctions or penalties on the accused's professional license.

It's important to keep in mind that, although a ChildLine investigation isn't a criminal investigation, it's possible for you to be the subject of a ChildLine investigation and a separate criminal investigation into the child abuse allegations at the same time. The experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm can help you understand what charges you're facing and how best to defend yourself against them.

What Can You Do if You're Being Investigated by ChildLine?

It's important to know your rights if you're the subject of a ChildLine child abuse investigation. By law, you have to be notified of:

  • Your right to an attorney.
  • Your right to have an attorney with you during any meetings or interviews with government officials.
  • The existence of the child abuse report and allegations made against you.
  • Your right to seek to amend or expunge the county's decision.

It's also important to know what's at stake when you're the subject of a ChildLine investigation. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, your name could be added to the ChildLine registry. Being listed on the registry can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. It can ruin your reputation, restrict where you can work, limit where you can volunteer within your community, and more.

In addition, even though ChildLine investigations aren't criminal investigations, it's important to understand that, in some circumstances, a separate criminal investigation might take place alongside your ChildLine investigation. So, even if your ChildLine investigation doesn't result in a finding of abuse, you could still wind up facing criminal child abuse charges, which can result in hefty fines and jail time.

Being the subject of a ChildLine investigation can be emotionally exhausting. The process is intense, and there's so much riding on the outcome. Having investigators question your family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors about your alleged abusive behavior can be very intrusive. Even if you're cleared of all wrongdoing, the emotional toll of the experience can last many years after the investigation ends, and the damage to your reputation could take years to undo.

The stakes of the ChildLine investigation couldn't be higher. That's why contacting the knowledgeable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm is the best thing to do if you're the subject of a ChildLine investigation in Sullivan County. We have years of experience helping people successfully navigate the ChildLine investigation process in Sullivan County and throughout Pennsylvania. With so much at stake, you shouldn't handle this alone. We're here to help you.

What Happens if a ChildLine Investigation Determines You Committed Child Abuse?

A lot is riding on the outcome of your ChildLine investigation. It will determine many things, including whether or not your name will be added to the ChildLine registry and, potentially, where you can work and volunteer. It can also affect any child custody arrangements that you have in place and may also affect any professional licenses you have.

At the conclusion of their investigation, the ChildLine investigators will determine whether the child abuse report against you is unfounded, indicated, or founded. If they determine that the child abuse report is unfounded, this means that the county didn't find evidence of child abuse and won't add your name to the ChildLine registry.

If the investigators determine that the child abuse report is indicated, this means that they found substantial evidence of child abuse and will add your name to the ChildLine registry.

If the investigators determine that the child abuse report is founded, this means that there's a judicial determination – such as a trial verdict – that found substantial evidence of child abuse. In the case of a founded report, they'll also add your name to the ChildLine registry.

Immediately after the ChildLine investigation, the county will submit its results to the state, which will then notify you of:

  • The result of the investigation and status of the report – i.e., whether it's unfounded, founded, or indicated.
  • The fact that your name, the nature of the child abuse, and the report's status (indicated or founded) will be entered into the ChildLine database.
  • The effect the report will have on your job and volunteer opportunities.
  • Your right to request to expunge or amend the report.
  • Your right to appeal an indicated finding within 90 days.
  • Your right to a hearing on the merits on appeal, where the county bears the burden of proving its case by substantial evidence.

How to Expunge Your Name From the ChildLine Registry

In order to expunge or remove your name from the ChildLine registry, you have to carefully follow the appeal process, which means closely following the rules and adhering to strict deadlines. Generally speaking, indicated reports can be expunged for good cause – such as the discovery or new evidence that the child abuse report is inaccurate – and proof that you no longer pose a risk to commit child abuse and that no public purpose would be served by keeping your name in the registry.

You then have 90 days to request an administrative review or appeal and a hearing to expunge or amend an indicated report. If your request is granted, you'll then have 90 days to file your appeal. If your request is denied, you can appeal the denial. If you file your appeal within the 90-day window, a hearing will then be scheduled.

The expungement hearing will take place at the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals. At the hearing, the county has the burden of proving by substantial evidence that the report should remain an indicated report. For Sullivan County, the proceedings will likely be held at the Northeastern Regional location of the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals in Plymouth. Keep in mind that this is an administrative proceeding, not a criminal one.

At the hearing, you'll be able to speak and present evidence, such as witness statements, medical records, and photos. If the report status changes to unfounded, county officials will update their records to reflect the new status, and they'll remove your name from the ChildLine registry.

In some circumstances, it might be possible for someone named as a perpetrator in a founded report to expunge their name from the ChildLine registry. In these cases, the accused has to provide a court order that shows that the underlying action that formed the basis of the founded report has been reversed or vacated. This all may sound confusing and overwhelming, but the knowledgeable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm can help you determine the best course of action in your situation.

How to Appeal a ChildLine Finding of Child Abuse

There are many opportunities to appeal decisions that are made throughout the course of the ChildLine investigation process. Successfully appealing a ChildLine finding is complicated, and you have to carefully follow the procedures and filing deadlines to have a chance at success.

Expunging your name from the ChildLine registry can be thought of as one form of appeal. It's also possible to appeal the denial of an initial request for administrative review of a ChildLine finding. If your initial request is denied, you also have the right to appeal the denial and request a hearing to amend or expunge the finding of the indicated report. You have 90 days to request a hearing. At the hearing, the county has the burden of proving the allegations against you. If they fail to make their case, they'll remove your name from the ChildLine registry.

If the hearing doesn't go your way, it's possible to appeal this decision as well. You have 15 days from the date of the final order to request a reconsideration of the decision. If your request is granted, you then have 30 days to file an appeal with the Commonwealth Court.

Although it might seem like a long shot, it's definitely worth going to the trouble of filing an appeal at this point. Of the 86 decisions that were appealed in 2021, almost half were overturned. The key to a successful appeal is a strong, knowledgeable legal team who is familiar with the ins and outs of the Pennsylvania ChildLine appeal process.

The LLF Law Firm has been helping people in Sullivan County and throughout Pennsylvania successfully navigate the ChildLine appeals process for many years. We'll work with you to create a solid legal strategy that will ensure the best possible outcome for you.

What To Do if You're Facing a ChildLine Investigation for Suspected Child Abuse in Sullivan County

In Sullivan County, the Office for Children and Youth Services investigates and manages reports of suspected child abuse that are sent to them through the ChildLine system and also handles reports that are made directly to them. Sullivan County residents should know that, according to a 2020 Child Protective Services Report, there were 15 reports of suspected child abuse in Sullivan County and only five substantiated reports. Given these statistics, it's in your best interest to contact the LLF Law Firm to defend yourself against any child abuse allegations you're facing in Sullivan County.

In addition, if you're a Sullivan County resident and have been notified that you've been added to the state's ChildLine registry, the stakes couldn't be higher. You should contact the experienced attorneys at The LLF Law Firm for help. The Criminal Defense Team has years of experience successfully representing clients throughout Sullivan County who are facing ChildLine investigations and any other matters pertaining to child abuse allegations.

How the LLF Law Firm Can Help Sullivan County Residents Who Are Under Investigation by ChildLine

If you're a Sullivan County resident who's the subject of a ChildLine child abuse investigation, or you've been notified that your name's been added to the state's ChildLine registry, you need to take immediate action to get the best legal representation possible.

The attorneys at the LLF Law Firm have years of experience successfully representing Sullivan County clients who have been accused of child abuse. Our knowledgeable Criminal Defense Team can help you understand how ChildLine investigations work and will work hard to ensure that your rights are protected every step of the way. Contact us at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation 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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