Montgomery County ChildLine Appeal Attorneys

If you live in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and got a notice that someone filed a report of child abuse against you and you're under investigation, you are likely highly concerned and stressed out. Facing accusations of child abuse can greatly impact your life and lead to serious consequences. One such consequence is being placed on Pennsylvania's ChildLine registry.

What's worse, you may have no idea who made the accusations since virtually anyone can submit a report—and many times, they can remain anonymous. The report could have come from the child's other parent, a teacher, a doctor, or a social worker, among others.

Since you never abused a child, you were probably blindsided by the accusations. False accusations of child abuse are more common than you may think. In fact, 7235 reports of suspected child abuse were filed in Pennsylvania in 2021, and many of these reports were made by “permissive reporters.” These are regular people who are not required by the state to report suspected child abuse. Incidentally, only 7.4% were substantiated by a local child protective services agency.

If a person makes an anonymous report against you for child abuse, you may face a long, tough road to identify your accuser and hold them accountable for filing a false report. You also have the cards stacked against you in developing and presenting an effective defense.

False and vengeful reports of child abuse can take a considerable mental toll on you. Even if you are cleared of all charges, the damage to your reputation and standing in the community will be hard to undo.

That's why it's extremely important you have a knowledgeable and experienced legal advocate on your side to help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible.

Are You Accused of Suspected Child Abuse in Montgomery County?

The Montgomery County Child Protective Services (MCCPS) office is part of the county's Department of Health and Human Services Children & Youth division. MCCPS receives reports of suspected child abuse through Pennsylvania's ChildLine reporting system, and the office reviews reports to determine if they're valid and investigates reports to substantiate claims. In 2020, for example, there were 1,065 total reports of child abuse, of which, 89 were substantiated.

If you're a resident of Montgomery County and face accusations and investigations for suspected child abuse from the MCCPS or any other child protection agency in Pennsylvania, get in contact with an experienced attorney immediately. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has represented many clients throughout Pennsylvania reported for suspected child abuse, and they can review your case, advise you of your options, and help you answer the allegations and clear your good name.

What Is Pennsylvania's ChildLine System?

Pennsylvania's ChildLine system child abuse reporting system that's open to anyone to make reports 24/7. Any reports made through ChildLine will be forwarded to the MCCPS for review and investigation.

Along with providing a convenient method for reporting abuse, ChildLine also maintains a database of individuals who have substantiated reports of child abuse against them. ChildLine offers a search feature where anyone can look up information about alleged child abusers. This can include current or prospective employers who may run background checks on employees or applicants.

In some cases, people are placed on the ChildLine registry without first having the opportunity to defend themselves or appeal a decision. It's vitally important that you take the matter seriously and contact an attorney the moment you learn your name is on the ChildLine registry.

Who Can Make a ChildLine Report?

Pennsylvania and the MCCPS recognize two types of child abuse reporters: mandated and permissive. Mandated reporters are those whose jobs or positions require them to report suspected child abuse or neglect. This can include teachers, doctors, social workers, members of the clergy, and law enforcement, among others. Permissive reporters are those who do not have state requirements for reporting alleged child abuse.

MCCPS offers resources on its website for reporter training and education that outline:

  • How to recognize child abuse or mistreatment
  • What your obligations are for reporting suspected abuse
  • What procedures you must follow to report child abuse or mistreatment

MCCPS also provides meetings and community forums for mandated and permissive reporters to increase awareness of child abuse and parent recruitment.

People may make reports through ChildLine online or by phone, or by reporting the matter directly to MCCPS, to local law enforcement, or to a trusted professional, such as a school administrator or principal.

Pennsylvania and MCCPS encourage individuals to report child abuse if they have “reasonable cause” to do so. Permissive reporters may also make their reports anonymously. In many cases, this can lead to false reports being filed which can result in undue stress and anxiety for the person being accused.

What Happens After Someone Reports Suspected Child Abuse to ChildLine?

When ChildLine receives a report of suspected child abuse in Montgomery County, it will forward the report to MCCPS for review. An investigator will be assigned, and they will determine whether the report is valid and falls under MCCPS' jurisdiction. If the investigator uncovers evidence to support the claim, they will investigate the matter. This is when things can become challenging and stressful for the person being accused.

The MCCPS investigation will feel invasive and perhaps unfair to you—especially if the reporter filed the claim with malicious intent. The investigator will come to your home and interview you along with others living in the house. They may even interview your family members, friends, and co-workers—including your employer. The investigator may also schedule follow-up interviews, and the process can take some time and be a grueling process for you.

You likely had no reason to suspect someone would report you for child abuse, and you probably have a lot of questions on how to defend yourself.

What You Can Do if You Are Being Investigated by a ChildLine Investigator

Regardless of who made the report or why, you have the right to have an attorney represent you throughout the investigation and ensuing process. Sometimes, investigators may make you feel like they're on your side, and they may ask misleading or “loaded” questions to try and obtain a confession or evidence they can use against you.

Therefore, you are well advised to have an attorney by your side during the interview who can make sure the questions and clear to you and that you understand how best to respond. Do not believe the investigator is on your side, and trust your attorney's advice and recommendations when dealing with MCCPS or any child protection agency in Pennsylvania.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has many years of experience helping clients during ChildLine investigations and interviews. They have assisted many clients in Montgomery County who face accusations of child abuse or have had their names added to the ChildLine registry. They can act proactively and present exonerating evidence on your behalf to MCCPS investigators to resolve the matter in your favor.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can serve as your dedicated legal advocate to help you devise a solid defense and improve your odds of achieving a successful outcome.

What Happens if a ChildLine Investigator Confirms Reports of Child Abuse Against You

If the MCCPS investigator substantiates the reports of child abuse against you, they can add your name to the ChildLine registry almost immediately. Your name could be out there, and you may have no idea until it's too late. This could place you in a precarious predicament because now you have to clear your name and have your listing expunged from the registry.

You may have the option to appeal the decision, but you need to consult an attorney to review your case and advise you of your best course of action.

How to Appeal a ChildLine Abuse Finding

If your name is placed on Pennsylvania's ChildLine registry, you have 90 days to request an appeal. That's not a lot of time, so you must act quickly the moment you learn your name is on the ChildLine registry.

To request an appeal, you have two options:

  1. Have your attorney petition the Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF) to conduct an administrative review of the decision.
  2. Have your attorney request a hearing from OCYF's Bureau of Hearings and Appeal (BHA).

For Montgomery County, your BHA appeal hearing will probably take place in the Philadelphia State Office Building. Although the hearing may feel like a court proceeding, there are major differences between the two. The most important differences involve rules of evidence and procedures. Hearings typically require only a preponderance of evidence and a majority vote, unlike criminal court procedures that require proof beyond a reasonable doubt and a unanimous verdict.

Nevertheless, you will be allowed to present evidence to refute the claim and support your innocence. You may also have an attorney present to represent you. The lower burden of proof can serve as a double-edged sword. On one hand, hearing officers do not need to establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt—but, if they don't provide clear and compelling evidence of your culpability, your attorney can use that to your advantage and have the decision reversed so that ChildLine must remove your name from its registry.

If the BHA appeal still does not go in your favor, you can have your attorney escalate the appeal to the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. This is really your final resort to having the decision reversed, but consider that, in 2021, the Secretary of the DHS overturned 34 of the 86 decisions individuals appealed.

As with the initial investigation and MCCPS interview, trying to handle an appeal on your own is not something you want to do. You need an attorney who understands how ChildLine and Pennsylvania's child protection services agencies operate and how investigators and hearing officers arrive at their decisions.

The Lento Law Firm Team has successfully assisted many individuals across Montgomery County and throughout Pennsylvania with their ChildLine registry appeals. They can help you create a compelling and effective argument against the decision to increase your chances of obtaining the best possible outcome.

Expunging Your Name From the ChildLine Registry

Even if your name has been on the ChildLine registry for a while, you still have options for having your name expunged. The Secretary of the DHS in Pennsylvania may expunge your name from the ChildLine registry in either of the following situations:

  1. It's determined you no longer pose a threat to the safety and welfare of children and no legitimate public safety reason exists for having your name on the registry
  2. Newly discovered evidence shows the initial report of abuse was bogus or inaccurate

Reach out to the defense attorneys at the Lento Law Firm right away to discuss your case.

How the Lento Law Firm Can Help

If Montgomery County Child Protective Services informed you that you are under investigation for suspected child abuse—or if you discovered your name is on the ChildLine registry unjustly and you want to have it removed—contact The Lento Law Firm Defense Team immediately.

The Lento Law Firm Defense Team has in-depth knowledge of Pennsylvania's child protection laws, and they can review your case and help you understand your rights and options. They understand how the system works, and they can be invaluable resources and advocates for you during this difficult, stressful, and uncertain time in your life.

Whether the child's other parent reported you out of revenge or spite to gain sole custody, or you feel the report was the result of a grave misunderstanding or some other benign reason, you should not let false accusations of child abuse adversely affect your life and future.

The Lento Law Firm Team is here to help make sure your voice is heard and assist you in achieving a favorable outcome. Call the Lento Law Firm Defense Team today at 888.535.3686, or complete their online contact form, to set up a confidential consultation.

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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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