Erie County ChildLine Appeal Attorneys

Thousands of Pennsylvania residents are placed on the state's ChildLine child abuse registry every year. Being placed on the list — or "ChildLined", as it is sometimes referred to — can be devastating to a person's life and livelihood. People on the ChildLine registry face restrictions on where they can work and even where they can volunteer within their communities. They also have to deal with the stigma of being suspected of child abuse.

Many people are falsely accused of child abuse. People make false child abuse reports for many different reasons. For example, people involved in nasty custody fights and messy divorces might resort to falsely accusing their exes of child abuse in an attempt to obtain a favorable outcome for themselves. Coworkers may make false child abuse allegations against colleagues based on a personal grudge or to get ahead professionally.

The seriousness of a child abuse allegation and the uncertainty of how it will affect your life can be overwhelming. Having to defend against a false accusation of child abuse and endure the intrusiveness of a child abuse investigation is probably one of the most challenging and stressful situations anyone can face.

The problem of false child abuse accusations in Pennsylvania is compounded by the ability of anyone to make an anonymous accusation of child abuse against someone else through the state's ChildLine child abuse reporting system.

What Is Pennsylvania's ChildLine System?

ChildLine is a 24-hour hotline established by Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services. The ChildLine hotline was established to prevent child abuse. Anyone can make an anonymous report of suspected child abuse or neglect to ChildLine.

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.

In Erie County, the Erie County Office for Children and Youth (OCY) receives ChildLine reports of suspected child abuse pertaining to incidents that occur within Erie County and that involve children who reside in Erie County. OCY assesses the allegations and determines what, if any, further action is needed.

The ChildLine registry lists the names of individuals who are found to have "indicated" or "founded" reports of child abuse in Pennsylvania. Although the registry isn't available to the general public, some employers are able to access it.

Having your name listed in the ChildLine registry has severe repercussions for one's life and livelihood, and once your name is on the list, it's very difficult to remove it.

Who Can Make a ChildLine Report?

Anyone can report suspected child abuse to ChildLine. Pennsylvania encourages anyone who reasonably suspects a child is being abused to report the matter to ChildLine or to local authorities. So-called "permissive" reporters can make their reports to ChildLine anonymously by phone.

Mandated reporters, such as healthcare workers, teachers, law enforcement officers, social workers, and members of the clergy, are required by law to report any suspected child abuse that they are aware of and face criminal liability if they fail to report suspected child abuse that they are aware of.

Mandated reporters can make a ChildLine report by phone or via ChildLine's online submission system and must provide their name and contact information in their reports.

There is a general presumption in Pennsylvania that mandated child abuse reports are made in good faith. The state protects mandated reporters from civil liability unless they file a false report with malicious intent and also keeps the names of mandated reporters confidential.

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.

If ChildLine receives a report of suspected child abuse occurring in Erie County or pertaining to a child who resides in the county, it will forward the report to the Erie County OCY. An OCY investigator then assesses the allegations and determines whether the report alleges behavior that constitutes child abuse.

If the report sufficiently alleges child abuse, OCY will begin an investigation into the allegations. OCY has 60 days to complete it. During the investigation, OCY can interview anyone who has any information about the report, including the accused person, their friends, children, family members, exes, and coworkers.

ChildLine will sometimes contact law enforcement officials in addition to contacting the county OCY. In Pennsylvania, child abuse matters; it's common for multidisciplinary teams made up of law enforcement and social services agencies to investigate child abuse allegations on multiple fronts. If the accused offender is a licensed Pennsylvania professional, ChildLine might also contact the appropriate state licensing board.

It's important to understand that a ChildLine investigation is not a criminal investigation. But, in some circumstances, it's possible for you to be the subject of both a ChildLine investigation and a separate criminal investigation into the child abuse allegations at the same time.

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

In Pennsylvania, anyone who is the subject of a ChildLine investigation must be notified of:

  • The existence of the report made against them
  • Their right to an attorney
  • Their right to seek an amendment or expungement of the county's final determination against them and
  • Their right to have an attorney present during any interviews or meetings with county officials.

Depending on the outcome of the ChildLine investigation, your name could be added to the ChildLine registry. Having your name on the ChildLine registry can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. It will also restrict the kind of jobs that are available to you, the volunteer opportunities that you are allowed to do, and more.

As previously stated, even though ChildLine investigations aren't criminal investigations, in some circumstances, a criminal investigation might take place concurrent with your ChildLine investigation. So, you could wind up facing criminal child abuse charges in addition to what the ChildLine investigation determines. Even if the ChildLine investigation doesn't result in a finding of abuse, it's possible that you could still face criminal charges.

ChildLine child abuse investigations can be emotionally exhausting and can traumatize even the strongest, most resilient people. The process is intense, and having investigators question your family and friends about your alleged abusive behavior can be very intrusive. Even if you are cleared of all wrongdoing, the emotional toll that the ordeal can take on you can last long after the investigation ends.

Therefore, the best thing you can do the moment you find out that you are the subject of a ChildLine investigation is to talk to the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm.

The LLF Law Firm Team has years of experience helping people successfully navigate the ChildLine investigation process in Erie County and throughout Pennsylvania. With so much at stake, you shouldn't handle this complex matter alone.

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

The outcome of your ChildLine investigation will determine whether or not your name is added to the ChildLine registry. At the conclusion of their investigation, ChildLine investigators determine whether a child abuse report is unfounded, indicated, or founded.

If the county determines that a 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 county determines that the child abuse report is indicated, it means that they concluded that there was substantial evidence of child abuse, and your name will be added to the ChildLine registry.

A report that is given founded status means that there's a judicial adjudication – such as a trial verdict – that found substantial evidence of child abuse. If the child abuse report made against you is given founded status, your name will be added to the ChildLine registry.

Immediately upon conclusion of the ChildLine investigation, the county agency will provide its results to the state, which will then notify you of:

  • The result of the investigation and status of the report
  • Their right to request to amend or expunge the report
  • The effect the report will have on your future employment opportunities
  • The fact that your name, nature of the abuse, and indicated or founded status will be entered into the ChildLine database
  • Your right to file an appeal of an indicated finding within 90 days and
  • Your right to a hearing on the merits on appeal, where the county bears the burden of proving its case by substantial evidence.

It's possible to appeal the results of the ChildLine investigation and seek to have your name removed or expunged from the ChildLine registry.

How to Expunge Your Name From the ChildLine Registry

In order to remove your name or expunge it from the ChildLine registry, you will have to follow a complicated process and carefully follow the strict rules and timelines.

Indicated reports are generally expunged for good cause, including a showing of new evidence that the child abuse report is inaccurate and proof that the accused no longer poses a child abuse risk and no public purpose is served by keeping their name in the registry.

It might also be possible for a person named as a perpetrator in a founded report to expunge their name from the ChildLine Registry. In order to expunge their name from the registry, a perpetrator in a founded report must provide a court order that shows that the underlying action that formed the basis of the founded child abuse report has been vacated or reversed. The knowledgeable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm can help you determine the best course of action in your situation.

You have 90 days to request an administrative review or appeal and request a hearing to amend or expunge an indicated report. If you make a request and it's granted, you 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 be scheduled.

The expungement hearing takes place at the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals, and the county has the burden of providing evidence and proving by substantial evidence that the report should remain an indicated report. It's important to keep in mind that this is not a criminal proceeding but rather an administrative one. For Erie County matters, the proceedings will likely be held at the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals location in Erie.

You'll have an opportunity to speak at the hearing and present evidence, such as witness statements, photos, and medical records.

If, at the conclusion, the report status changes to unfounded, county officials will be instructed to update their records to reflect the report's changed status, and your name will be removed from the ChildLine registry.

How to Appeal a ChildLine Finding of Child Abuse

There are many opportunities to appeal decisions that are made throughout the ChildLine investigation process. Like expungement, appealing a ChildLine finding is complicated, and you must carefully follow the process and filing deadlines in order to have a chance at a successful appeal.

The process of expunging your name from the ChildLine registry is one form of appeal. It's also possible for you to appeal the denial of an initial request for an administrative review of a ChildLine finding. If your initial request is denied, you 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, and in the hearing, the county will have the burden of proving the allegations against you. If they fail to do so, 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'll have 15 days from the date of the final order to request reconsideration of the final decision. If your request is granted, you'll then have 30 days to file an appeal with the Commonwealth Court.

It's definitely worth going to the trouble of filing an appeal. 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 Team has been helping people in Erie County and throughout Pennsylvania successfully navigate the ChildLine appeals process for many years. They'll create a solid legal strategy that will ensure the best possible outcome for you.

What to Do if You Are Facing a ChildLine Investigation for Suspected Child Abuse in Erie County

In Erie County, the Office for Children and Youth investigates and manages reports of suspected child abuse. The OCY investigates suspected child abuse reported to them through the ChildLine system, in addition to reports made directly to them. The OCY encourages the public to contact them directly with any good-faith reports of suspected child abuse. According to a 2020 Child Protective Services Report, in Erie County, there were 1022 reports of suspected child abuse but only 88 substantiated reports.

If you're an Erie 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 LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has years of experience successfully representing clients throughout Erie County in ChildLine investigations and all other matters pertaining to child abuse allegations.

How the LLF Law Firm Can Help People Facing ChildLine Child Abuse Investigations in Erie County

If you're the subject of an Erie County OCY ChildLine child abuse investigation, or you've been notified that your name has been added to the ChildLine registry, it's crucial to take immediate action and get the best legal representation possible.

The experienced attorneys on the LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team have years of experience representing Erie County clients who have been accused of child abuse. The knowledgeable LLF Law Firm Team can help you understand how ChildLine investigations work and help ensure that your rights are fully enforced every step of the way. Contact the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form.

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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