Schuylkill County ChildLine Referrals Attorney

As kids, most Americans are taught the phrase "everyone makes mistakes." This phrase is a way of letting very young people know that no one is perfect and that they shouldn't expect themselves or others to be perfect as a result. Unfortunately, missteps and misunderstandings that occur in the adult world tend to be much more consequential than those that occur when kids are "being kids." Take, for example, what can happen when an unsuspecting Schuylkill County resident is referred to Pennsylvania's ChildLine system for suspected child abuse, either due to a misstep on that individual's part or something that another party has misunderstood. The consequences of that turn of events can be devastating to the individual who has been referred, their child, their loved ones, and their community. Call us at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form to get the best legal help available in Schuylkill County.

Having one's name referred to the ChildLine registry – which is often referred to as getting "ChildLined" – is a big deal. Those who are named on the ChildLine registry are denied certain employment opportunities and cannot even freely volunteer wherever they'd like. The stigma attached to this label is not unlike that attached to those who are required to register as sex offenders after being convicted of certain kinds of criminal wrongdoing. Yet, unlike those who find themselves caught up in the criminal justice system, those who are referred for suspected child abuse do not enjoy the full extent of due process as mandated by the nation's criminal laws.

If you have been accused of unlawfully mistreating a child, this turn of events could impact your child custody arrangements, impact your livelihood, and lead to a lifelong stigma as a suspected child abuser. As such, the stakes of what you're facing if you've been ChildLined cannot be overstated. With so much at stake, it is important to connect with a strong and capable legal team as proactively as possible.

The knowledgeable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm have years of experience helping Schuylkill County residents with ChildLine referrals and investigations, in addition to all kinds of criminal and family law issues.

What Is Pennsylvania's ChildLine System?

ChildLine is a state system that features a 24-hour hotline established and maintained by Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services. The aim of the program is to prevent child abuse. Both mandatory reporters and members of the public alike can make anonymous reports of suspected child abuse or neglect to the ChildLine program.

The ChildLine system also features a registry of the names of those adults associated with "indicated" or "founded" reports of child abuse. These are important distinctions, as someone's name can end up on this registry without being convicted of a criminal offense. And while the registry is not searchable by the general public, it is made available to some employers.

When someone's name is listed in the ChildLine registry, this turn of events can dramatically impact their career, their custody rights, their standing in the community, and their well-being. Despite these stark realities, many people aren't even aware that their names have been entered into the ChildLine registry, as the system isn't subject to the kinds of due process that the state's sex offender registry is. Frustratingly, it can be very difficult to get a name off of ChildLine list once it has been entered.

What's a ChildLine Referral?

When the ChildLine program receives a report of suspected child abuse, it refers the situation to a county Child, Youth, and Family Services department. This is meant to happen within 24 hours. Each county's process for managing these referrals is distinct. As a result, anyone who is made aware of an abuse or neglect report involving them will need to learn about the unique ins and outs of the process in the county where the report has been filed.

County workers who receive a ChildLine referral generally need to evaluate reported suspicions to determine whether a particular situation qualifies as child abuse. Most of the time, if the alleged misconduct could be child abuse, the county will start an investigation, to be completed within 60 days. The investigation phase of the process often involves interviews with the accused, their family, co-workers, kids, etc. This investigation may or may not feature the involvement of law enforcement officials who are also investigating the circumstances at issue.

Notably, if the alleged offender is a licensed professional, ChildLine might also contact a relevant Pennsylvania state licensing board so that it can determine whether taking action against the accused's professional license is appropriate in light of the situation in question.

Given the potential consequences of being a target of allegations of child abuse, if you have been named as a ChildLine referral, it's important to connect with the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm immediately.

ChildLine Referrals in Schuylkill County

In Schuylkill, the Children & Youth Services Office (CYS), which is a sub-agency within the Department of Human Services (DHS), investigates reports of suspected abuse and neglect. These investigations concern both referrals from the ChildLine system for alleged incidents that occur within the boundaries of the county and also those involving children who live in Schuylkill. CYS also provides follow-up services in the event that the department determines that child abuse or neglect has, indeed, occurred.

Who Makes ChildLine Reports?

Anyone in Pennsylvania can potentially file a report of suspected child abuse or neglect to ChildLine. Voluntary reporting is referred to as permissive reporting, which may occur anonymously. On the flip side, reports made by those who are required by law to notify authorities in the event of suspected abuse are referred to as mandatory reporting.

Mandated Reporting

Like every other state in the U.S., Pennsylvania law requires certain individuals to act as mandated reporters. As a result, those who are required to report suspected child abuse or neglect can actually face criminal consequences if they don't make reports as required. This reality facilitates a culture in which innocent people can be targeted as suspected child abusers as a result of the pressures put upon mandatory reporters to speak up or face consequences if they suspect abuse, even if those suspicions are ultimately inspired by a misunderstanding or incomplete information.

Mandated reporters generally work in occupations where they frequently connect with kids and families. They include educators, healthcare workers, counselors, daycare providers, law enforcement officers, social workers, and some individuals who work within religious organizations.

Mandatory reporters are generally safeguarded from personal legal liability unless they file a false report intentionally and with malicious intent. With that said, there's a general presumption in Pennsylvania that mandatory reporting is conducted in good faith. Therefore, it falls to those who have been harmed by mandatory reporting to prove that a mandatory reporter acted maliciously.

Due to the pressures applied to mandatory reporters and the fact that alleging child abuse can be done anonymously by members of the public who may have malicious intent, the system is far from perfect. Mistakes can be made, and bad-faith reporting can occur at any time. As a result, those who have been falsely accused of misconduct can benefit from working with a legal team that understands the ins and outs of this complicated, consequential, and imperfect system. If you are facing such allegations, know that the reputable attorneys at the LLF Law Firm can help you build a strong defensive response against ChildLine reports of abuse in Schuylkill County.

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

If you are the target of a ChildLine investigation, the outcome will determine whether your name will be added to the state's ChildLine registry. There are three primary determinations that may be made in the wake of an abuse investigation. The allegations against you could ultimately be classified as unfounded, indicated, or founded.

If CYS does not find credible evidence of child abuse during the investigation process, it should determine that the allegations against you are unfounded. As such, your name won't be added to the ChildLine registry. If, however, substantial evidence of child abuse is found during the investigative process, the agency will classify the report as indicated. If this happens, your name will be added to the ChildLine registry.

Your name will also be added to the registry if the report is classified as founded. This only happens when a judicial finding – such as a trial verdict – has determined that substantive evidence of child abuse warrants this "more determinative" status, as opposed to "indicated," which can be levied after an investigation but without the benefits of due process.

While a ChildLine investigation isn't a criminal investigation, under certain circumstances, a criminal investigation may occur at the same time that a ChildLine investigation is unfolding. If this occurs, you'd be at risk of a "founded" status as opposed to an "indicated" status. Additionally, you could be charged with criminal child abuse at the end of a criminal investigation. As the ChildLine and criminal investigation processes are distinct, it is possible to end up facing criminal charges even if your ChildLine investigation is classified as unfounded.

In short, being accused of child abuse or neglect is a complex situation that could result in a variety of consequential outcomes that could potentially impact you, personally and professionally, for the rest of your life. As a result, it is important to treat a ChildLine investigation with the seriousness that it deserves. The LLF Law Firm's knowledgeable Criminal Defense Team can provide you with personalized legal assistance designed to help ensure that your rights are protected as your case evolves.

What Are Your Rights if You've Been Referred to ChildLine?

ChildLine referrals do not result in the kinds of due process that criminal cases do. But, with that said, individuals who have been referred to ChildLine do enjoy certain rights. Specifically, those who are being investigated by ChildLinemust be notified of their right to counsel and to have their counsel in attendance at all related interviews and meetings. And, a right that is far too often overlooked in a timely manner, individuals have the right to be notified of the suspected child abuse report(s) that has been filed against them, as well as its status and the result of the investigation process.

In the event that a report results in an unfounded or founded status, an individual also enjoys the right to be notified of the following:

  • The right to seek an amendment or expungement of the county's decision
  • The reality that the accused's name, a description of the alleged abuse, and the status of the report – as indicated or founded – will be recorded in the ChildLine system
  • The right to file an appeal within 90 days

If an individual appeals their inclusion in the ChildLine system, they have a right to a hearing on the merits of the county's case. The burden of proof will then fall to the county to prove the allegations with substantial evidence against the accused.

Schuylkill County ChildLine Referrals Attorney

If you've been referred to ChildLine and your case is being handled by CYS in Schuylkill County, the importance of having a solid legal team at your side cannot be overstated. The stress of being accused of child abuse and of knowing that the personal and professional consequences of an unfavorable outcome could be dire can inspire intense emotion. This heightened emotion can lead to missteps that could compromise the strength of your case. Instead of reacting to the situation in ways that could result in negative consequences, allow us to take the practical stress of your situation off of your shoulders.

The stakes of your situation are high. You need to focus on presenting your case in the best light and engaging in self-care so that you don't unintentionally do anything that could damage the strength of your defense. Having the client-focused attorneys at the LLF Law Firm advocating for your interests will allow you to do just that. You take care of yourself, and we'll do our utmost to protect your rights and work towards a favorable case outcome.

The LLF Law Firm Can Help if You've Been Referred to ChildLine in Schuylkill County

If you have been referred to ChildLine, you may be – very understandably – tempted to panic. After all, the consequences of an unfavorable outcome could be devastating. Thankfully, although the investigative process is out of your control, it is fully within your rights to speak with the experienced attorneys at the LLF Law Firm and to benefit from personalized guidance tailored uniquely to your situation.

The Criminal Defense Team at the LLF Law Firm has decades of experience successfully representing clients all over Pennsylvania with ChildLine investigations and allegations of abuse and neglect. We are here to help; you are not alone. Know that you and your case will be treated with great care, consideration, and respect as it evolves. Contact the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686, or submit a confidential online consultation form to learn more. We look forward to speaking with 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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