Bedford County ChildLine Referrals Attorney

One of the biggest fears that any parent can experience is learning that they're being investigated for suspected child abuse or neglect as the result of a ChildLine report filed with the state of Pennsylvania or the Bedford County Children & Youth Services (CYS). The thought of having your life exposed and examined by a county investigator who could then recommend that your child be taken from you can be one of the most stressful and upsetting situations a parent can ever have to face. Even if you're certain that you've done nothing to justify being investigated, you will still face detailed and invasive interviews with a CYS staff member; your home may be inspected from top to bottom, and your family members, neighbors, and co-workers interviewed.

Don't face what's known as a ChildLine investigation in Bedford County alone. Call the LLF Law Firm today at 888.535.3686 or schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to learn more about how we can help you protect your rights in a ChildLine investigation.

Pennsylvania's ChildLine System

Pennsylvania has a state-wide child abuse and neglect reporting system called ChildLine that is a part of the state's Department of Human Services. There is an 800 number that anyone can use to report suspected child abuse or neglect, and links to an online report system that can be used by individuals who are required by law to make ChildLine reports. Reports received by the state ChildLine system are forwarded to the appropriate child protection agency in the county where the child who is the subject of the report lives. In Bedford County, that agency is Bedford County Children & Youth Services, which has its offices in the Bedford County Courthouse building at 200 S. Juliana Street in Bedford.

A ChildLine report can be filed by anybody. The general public – those who aren't required by Pennsylvania law to file ChildLine reports in suspected abuse or neglect cases as a result of their work – can make anonymous reports. Others, the so-called “mandated reporters,” must identify themselves when making a ChildLine report.

There are, of course, two sides to allowing the public to file ChildLine reports anonymously. On the one hand, it encourages people who genuinely believe that a child is in danger to report the situation. On the other hand, it provides a way for people who are involved in a dispute with someone to turn that person's life upside down by instigating an unnecessary ChildLine investigation. It's not unusual, for example, for one spouse to report the other to ChildLine when custody issues are pending in a divorce proceeding.

If, after an investigation of a ChildLine report, the Bedford County CYS investigator believes that abuse or neglect has occurred or is in danger of happening, the name of the person responsible for the child's care will be added to Pennsylvania's ChildLine registry. When that happens, certain employers and organizations who have access to the ChildLine registry will be able to search the registry for background check purposes.

It can be more difficult for you to get or keep your job if your name has been added to the ChildLine registry. You may be prevented from volunteering for certain organizations that use the registry as part of their background check process. If you're in the middle of a divorce, having your name added to the ChildLine registry can mean that you will not be given custody of your child, and any time you're allowed to spend with your child may have to be supervised. It's not unusual for someone's name to be added to the ChildLine registry without their knowledge; this can happen when the person fails to receive or open the notice telling them that their name is now on it.

What Is a ChildLine Referral?

ChildLine referrals are reports that can be made by anyone who is concerned that a child has been abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused or neglected. They can be made by phone to an 800 number maintained by the Department of Human Services or directly to the Bedford County CYS general phone number. People who, because of their jobs, are required by law to report suspected child abuse or neglect have access to a secure reporting website so that a record is kept of who made the report.

Reports received by the 800 number or the website that involve a child who lives in Bedford County are forwarded to Bedford County CYS for further investigation. CYS is responsible for reviewing the report to determine whether it relates to suspected abuse or neglect or to some other aspect of child care that is better handled by another agency. For example, some ChildLine reports may result in the family being contacted for help with after-school care, student tutoring, or clothing donations – issues that don't necessarily suggest that a child is being abused or neglected.

There are a number of reasons why CYS may decide to move forward with a ChildLine investigation. These can include:

  • Allegations that a child has been injured or abused (physically or sexually) by a parent, family member, or caregiver
  • Claims that a child has not been cared for or watched properly
  • Situations where parents are unable to care for their child, whether because of substance abuse, physical problems, or emotional issues, and there does not appear to be another adult connected with the family who is able to step in
  • Chronic truancy that goes uncorrected after a number of attempts by the school to remedy the situation

In the kinds of cases where the ChildLine report suggests that a child is being (or is in danger of being) abused or neglected, Bedford County CYS will begin an investigation. A staff member will be assigned to investigate the matter. The investigation process will likely feel very invasive and can often leave the parent with questions about their own parenting skills, even in cases where there is no substance to the allegations of abuse or neglect.

If you are under investigation, you're likely to be interviewed in detail by the CYS investigator. Everyone in your household – including children – may also be interviewed. Your home and surrounding property may be inspected in detail. Your neighbors may also be asked questions about you and your family.

All of this can leave you feeling extremely uncertain about yourself, your future, and your child's future with you. Even though a CYS investigation is not a criminal one – CYS personnel are not law enforcement officers – there is always a risk that CYS will refer the matter to local law enforcement. In other cases, if you have a professional license of some type, CYS may report you to the licensing authority for possible disciplinary action.

As you can see, once you become the focus of a CYS ChildLine investigation, the stakes can be quite high. One way to help yourself in this kind of situation is to retain an experienced attorney who understands both the ChildLine process and your rights in any ChildLine investigation. The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is ready to help you, just as we've helped clients across Pennsylvania who suddenly find themselves targeted in a ChildLine investigation.

ChildLine Referrals in Bedford County

With fewer than 50,000 residents, Bedford County is one of Pennsylvania's less-populated counties, though it's by no means the least-populated. In 2022, there were almost 200 reports of suspected child abuse or neglect involving children living in Bedford County. Of those, 32 – or about 16% -- were treated as “substantiated” by CYS. The numbers in 2021 were similar, with 170 ChildLine reports, of which 26 were “substantiated.” In 2020, of the 141 ChildLine reports made for Bedford County, 17 were “substantiated,” which is about a 12% substantiation rate.

Physical abuse or bodily injury were the main forms of substantiated abuse found in Bedford County in 2022, with 39.4% of cases involving one or the other. Sexual abuse was second, at 36.4% of the substantiated cases. Just over 20% of substantiated cases involved situations where investigators determined that there was a “reasonably likelihood” of bodily injury.

Despite these unfortunate numbers, nearly 85% of ChildLine reports in Bedford County in 2022 were “unsubstantiated.” It's very possible that some of these unsubstantiated reports were filed anonymously by someone who was involved in a dispute with the person they were reporting.

It is a mistake, of course, to rely on statistics if you learn that you're being investigated by Bedford County CYS as the result of a ChildLine report. The determination of whether a report is “unsubstantiated” or “substantiated” always depends on the facts of the particular case. That's why you need the help of an experienced attorney from the LLF Law Firm Team who understands what's at stake in a ChildLine investigation and knows how to protect your rights throughout the very stressful and invasive process.

Who Can Make a ChildLine Report

There are two types of ChildLine reporters: “permissive” and “mandated.” Anyone can be a “permissive” reporter; all they need to do is call the ChildLine referral number and file a report of suspected abuse anonymously or by providing their contact information.

A “mandated” reporter, on the other hand, is someone required by Pennsylvania law to file a ChildLine report when they have information that makes them suspect that a child has been abused or neglected or that a child is in danger of being abused or neglected. A mandated reporter who fails to make a ChildLine report when they have information that would justify them making one can be prosecuted. That's why mandated reporters are required to identify themselves when they file a ChildLine report – so they have a record of complying with their legal obligation.

Roughly 83% of all ChildLine reports made in Pennsylvania in 2022 were made by mandated reporters. The roster of mandated reporters includes childcare workers, healthcare professionals, public librarians, teachers, clergy, law enforcement personnel, and others. The high percentage of mandated ChildLine reports is likely due to the fact that failing to make a report can lead to criminal prosecution while filing a mistaken report has virtually no consequences; a mandated reporter who files a ChildLine report in good faith is shielded by law from liability for having done so. And while a permissive reporter who deliberately files a false report can also be prosecuted, it often is very hard to find and prosecute someone who files a false report anonymously.

Whether you're being investigated because of a good-faith ChildLine report or a bad-faith ChildLine report is, in most cases, irrelevant; you will still have to face the stress and anxiety of being the target of a CYS investigation. Working with one of the experienced attorneys from the LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help you deal with that stress and anxiety. We will help prepare you for what the investigation will be like; we can be by your side during any interviews with CYS personnel, and we can discuss your case on your behalf with CYS personnel to help resolve it in as favorable a manner as possible.

What Happens if a ChildLine Referral Results in a Finding of Child Abuse?

If the Bedford County CYS determines that the ChildLine report made against you has been “substantiated,” your name will be added almost immediately to the Pennsylvania ChildLine registry. If the report isn't substantiated, your name won't be added.

That may not be the end of it, unfortunately. Depending on the situation, CYS may take steps to remove your child from your home and have them live with relatives or even in foster care. You may also be reported to law enforcement for possible prosecution.

When your name is on the ChildLine registry, you may find it harder to get or keep a job. If you're involved in a divorce proceeding or are already divorced, being added to the ChildLine registry can greatly affect your ability to have custody of your child. Your visitation rights may also be restricted. This is why it's so important to have experienced legal help throughout the entire investigation process. The LLF Law Firm is here to help you protect your rights in any CYS ChildLine investigation and may also be able to help in situations where your name is already on the ChildLine registry and you believe it should be removed.

What Are Your Rights if Your Name Has Been Referred to ChildLine?

You have rights if you're the target of a ChildLine investigation. These include:

  • The right to be represented by an attorney throughout the entire process, including during interviews with Bedford County CYS
  • The right to know the details of the ChildLine report made against you
  • The right to challenge a ChildLine listing, including the right to have it removed or revised where the facts support doing so

When the ChildLine investigation is complete, you also have the right:

  • To be notified of the results and if your name will be added to the ChidlLine registry
  • To learn how the listing will affect your employment or other career opportunities
  • To receive information about how to amend or expunge your ChildLine registry listing
  • To appeal the decision to add your name to the ChildLine registry – which must be done within 90 days

Statistically, about 15% of appeals made in 2022 were successful; so an appeal is not a long shot. That said, what can be more effective is to avoid having your name added to the ChildLine registry. Working with one of the experienced attorneys from the LLF Law Firm can help tremendously with that. And even in situations where your name is already on the ChildLine registry, our attorneys can help review your case and, where appropriate, prepare, file, and argue an appeal on your behalf.

How the LLF Law Firm Can Help You if You've Been Referred to ChildLine in Bedford County

First of all, the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm understand how incredibly stressful it can be to learn that you're under investigation by Bedford County CYS because of a ChildLine report made against you. We will work to help you with that anxiety by protecting your rights throughout the entire process.

We will explain the allegations made against you so that you understand why the investigation is happening. Our lawyers will prepare you for your interview with the Bedford County CYS staff member and can be there when you're questioned so that you only answer clear questions that you understand. We can also make sure that the CYS investigator understands your responses so that they do not act on misunderstood information. We will also be able to discuss your case with CYS personnel and can help resolve it as quickly and as fairly as possible.

If your name is placed on the ChildLine registry, we can fight on your behalf to have it removed. In short, we're available to help you at any and every stage of the ChildLine process.

Don't delay – once you learn you're the target of a ChildLine investigation, call the LLF Law Firm at 888.535.3686 or use our contact form to schedule a confidential consultation. We are here to listen and to help!

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades 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 LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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