Lycoming County ChildLine Referrals Attorney

Learning that you've been reported to Lycoming County Children & Youth Services (CYS) because someone believes you may have abused your child can be a devastating experience. Once someone has filed a report of suspected abuse with Pennsylvania's ChildLine abuse reporting system, a very invasive and stressful investigation process may begin that can leave you feeling uncertain about your and your family's future together, even if it's determined that no abuse has occurred. Having the help of one of the experienced attorneys from the LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can make all the difference, both in terms of how the Lycoming County CYS investigation is conducted and how the abuse investigation is resolved. If you find yourself the target of a ChildLine investigation in Lycoming County, call the LLF Law Firm today at 888.535.3686, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. We understand what you're going through, and we're here to help.  

Pennsylvania's ChildLine System 

Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services operates a 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-per-week child abuse reporting system called “ChildLine” that anyone can use to report suspected child abuse. Once received, ChildLine reports are referred to the appropriate agency in the county where the child lives for further review and follow-up. In the case of Lycoming County, that agency is Lycoming County Children & Youth Services in Williamsport.  

ChildLine reports can be filed by anybody, and reports filed by the general public can be made anonymously. The purpose of this is to encourage people to “get involved” in situations where they suspect that child abuse has occurred, but they might otherwise decide not to intervene. While well-intentioned, anonymous reporting also allows the ChildLine system to be used to intimidate and harass targets in situations where no child abuse has taken place. It's not unusual, for example, for an aggrieved spouse to file a ChildLine abuse report anonymously against the other spouse in a divorce or child custody case simply to gain an edge.  

When a ChildLine investigator determines that child abuse is likely to have taken place, the name of the person responsible for the abuse is added to Pennsylvania's ChildLine Registry database. The ChildLine Registry is accessible to certain employers and organizations, such as charities, to check the background of potential employees and volunteers.  

Having your name added to the ChildLine registry can thus make it more difficult for you to find a job; in some cases, you may even lose your existing job. You may be turned away from some volunteer opportunities. Child custody orders may leave you with only supervised visitation rights with your child. In some cases, even after being investigated by Lycoming County CYS, people may learn that their names have been added to the ChildLine registry only after the decision has been made to do so.  

What is a ChildLine Referral?  

ChildLine operates statewide and, of course, can be accessed by phone or the Internet from anywhere. Reports can be filed online through the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services website or by calling an 800 number. In addition, Lycoming County CYS will accept child abuse referrals directly via phone.  

Reports filed with the statewide ChildLine service are referred to Lycoming County CYS when the affected child lives in the county. Once CYS receives a report – whether it's from the statewide ChildLine service or from someone who reports directly to CYS – it will review the report of suspected child abuse to determine whether it's one that should be investigated. Not all ChildLine reports are about child abuse cases; some may report situations where children and families simply need help from local service agencies, for example, ones that provide help with clothing, after-school care, tutoring, and more.  

But where the report does appear to relate to child abuse or neglect, CYS will assign it to a staff member whose responsibility it is to investigate the report. It can be very intimidating to find yourself the target of a ChildLine investigation. The investigation process is likely to feel very invasive. You'll most likely be interviewed one or more times by a CYS investigator. You may be required to allow them to inspect your home and your property. Your child or children and other family members living with you may also be interviewed. Your neighbors or co-workers might also be approached by the CYS investigator for interviews.     

The CYS webpage describes the types of abuse situations in which CYS will get involved. These include cases where:  

  • Children have been injured 
  • Children have been physically or sexually abused 
  • Children aren't properly cared for or supervised 
  • Where parents, for one reason or another, are not able to adequately care for their children 
  • Where parents need help with their own problems or their children's problems and have not been able to find that help 

CYS personnel are not law enforcement officers, and the ChildLine investigation and registry process is not a criminal one. However, in cases where the CYS investigator believes that criminal abuse has occurred, they will refer the matter to law enforcement for further investigation and potential prosecution. In other cases where the adult who is being investigated holds a professional license in Pennsylvania, CYS may contact the appropriate licensing board to report the conduct as a potential disciplinary violation.  

Because so much is at stake once a CYS ChildLine investigation has been launched against you in Lycoming County, you need the advice and assistance of experienced attorneys from the LLF Law Firm. We will be by your side during the interview process, will help you understand what's happening, can discuss your case with the ChildLine investigator, and can make sure your rights are respected throughout the entire investigation.  

ChildLine Referrals in Lycoming County 

Lycoming County Children & Youth Services receives and investigates hundreds of ChildLine reports each year. However, a relatively small percentage of these investigations result in what's called a “substantiated” report. In 1992, for example, Lycoming County CYS received 488 reports of suspected child abuse, of which 75, or just over 15%, were “substantiated.” Total suspected child abuse reports were down from the 510 reports filed in 2021 but were substantially more than the 389 reports filed in 2020. There were four main types of abuse that CYS investigators uncovered: sexual abuse (almost 32% of substantiated abuse cases); physical abuse or bodily injury (just over 23%); situations where there was a “reasonable likelihood of bodily injury” (28%); and “serious physical neglect” (almost 10%). 

The fact that only 15% of ChildLine abuse reports were investigated by Lycoming County CYS suggests that at least some of those reports were deliberately false, filed by someone intending to put the person they're reporting through the extremely stressful investigation process.  

Even though the odds are against a ChildLine report being “substantiated,” you need to take any ChildLine investigation seriously. Each case is determined on its own merits, and the fact that 85% of ChildLine investigations in Lycoming County in 2022 were not substantiated doesn't mean your case will have the same result. How you respond during the course of a ChildLine investigation and how your rights are protected can make a difference. The LLF Law Firm Team is here to help you through this process, protecting your rights while preparing you for interviews, site visits, and discussions with CYS personnel.  

Who Can Make a ChildLine Report?  

We've already pointed out that anyone can file a ChildLine report and that the general public can do so anonymously. But there are two different types of ChildLine reporters – ones who voluntarily file ChildLine reports and those who are required by law to do so when they encounter a situation that makes them suspect that child abuse has or may occur.  

Mandated Reporters 

A mandated reporter is someone who is required by Pennsylvania law to file a ChildLine report when they encounter a situation in the course of their work that makes them suspect that a child is being abused or neglected or is in danger of being abused or neglected. A ChildLine report filed by a mandated reporter is never anonymous; the reporter must identify themselves when making the report to ChildLine. Because a mandated reporter who fails to make a ChildLine report when they encounter a situation of suspected abuse or neglect can be prosecuted for failing to do so, their names need to be part of any ChildLine report they file.  

The majority of ChildLine reports that are filed come from mandated reporters. In 2022, for example, approximately 83% of the more than 40,000 ChildLine reports filed in Pennsylvania were made by mandated reporters. The mandated report requirement applies to many different types of jobs, including teachers, childcare workers, health care providers, law enforcement officers, public librarians, clergy, and more.  

The potential for criminal liability for failing to file a ChildLine report in a situation where child abuse is suspected means that mandated reporters have a very strong incentive to make a report, even in a situation where actual child abuse is extremely unlikely. This over-reporting likely is a significant factor in the number of reported abuse cases that are investigated and deemed “unsubstantiated.” The fact that mandated reporters may over-report suspected child abuse doesn't make it any easier for the people who have been reported and then put through a stressful and anxiety-producing CYS investigation. The most effective way to reduce stress in this kind of situation is to enlist the help of one of the experienced attorneys from the LLF Law Firm, who understand the ChildLine investigation process and can help you protect your rights throughout.  

Permissive Reporters 

Everyone else who isn't a mandated reporter is a permissive reporter. These are the ones who are allowed to submit anonymous ChildLine reports, whether or not they have an actual reason to believe that child abuse or neglect is happening. While filing a false ChildLine report in Pennsylvania is a second-degree misdemeanor, and can result in a $5000 fine and 2 years in prison, the fact that reports can be filed anonymously makes it difficult to prosecuteindividuals for filing false reports. But no matter what the source of the ChildLine report, and whether or not it's a false report or one made in good faith, you will benefit by having the help of the LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team when the CYS investigator contacts you for an interview or home visit.  

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

If Lycoming County CYS's investigation of you results in a determination that the ChildLine report has been “substantiated,” your name will be added to the ChildLine registry. If your case is not substantiated, your name won't be added. In addition, if substantiated, there may be further actions that CYS takes, including removing children from your home and placing them with relatives or in foster care. You may also be reported to law enforcement for possible prosecution.  

Having your name added to the ChildLine registry can affect you for years. It can make it harder for you to find work, and in custody cases can result in you losing custody and having your visitation rights curtailed. This is why it's so important for you to have experienced representation from an attorney who understands Pennsylvania's child abuse and neglect laws and can help you protect your rights during the investigations process. The LLF Law Firm has helped Pennsylvanians from across the state who find themselves targeted by a ChildLine investigation, and we're ready to help you, too.  

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

You have specific rights that apply during any ChildLine investigation. In particular:   

  • The right to be notified of the allegation of child abuse or neglect that was made against you 
  • The right to be represented by an attorney during and after the investigation, including during interviews and meetings with Lycoming County CYS personnel 
  • The right to have any ChildLine registry listing expunged or amended when facts support that 

After a ChildLine investigation has finished, you have the right to be notified of the results and whether your name will be added to the ChildLine registry. You should also be notified of:  

  • Your rights to amend or expunge your ChildLine registry listing 
  • The effect the ChildLine listing may have on your job and career opportunities 
  • Your right to appeal the ChildLine registry listing, which must be done within 90 days, and your right to have a hearing on your appeal 

Sometimes, people are added to the ChildLine registry and don't realize it; possibly because they failed to receive or review the notification about the results of an investigation. While appeals can be difficult to win, it's not unheard of for an appeal to be successful. In 2022, for example, roughly 15% of ChildLine registry listing appeals were successful, meaning the person's listing was removed. It's precisely this relatively low success rate that means you should retain an experienced attorney from the LLF Law Firm to help you with any appeal.  

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

At the LLF Law Firm, we understand how stressful and anxiety-provoking it can be to find yourself the target of a Lycoming County CYS ChildLine investigation. It may feel as though your whole life is being examined by someone whose job it is to find something wrong that they can use against you. This is when you need an experienced attorney by your side, someone who understands Pennsylvania's child abuse laws and what your rights are in a ChildLine investigation.  

Our experienced attorneys can help. We'll explain the ChildLine investigation process to you and help you understand what to expect during an interview and site visit. We can be there with you during these situations, making sure that you're asked clear, understandable questions and that your answers are not misconstrued by the investigator. If you contact us after your name is on the ChildLine registry, we can review your case and determine whether the situation supports an appeal or a request to remove your name from the list. In short, the LLF Law Firm is here to help you fight for your rights at any stage of the ChildLine process.  

Call us today at 888.535.3686 or by using our contact form to schedule a confidential consultation. The sooner you reach out to us, the more we can do to help you.  

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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