Allegations of the abuse of a child are some of the most damaging that can be made against a parent or caregiver. These types of allegations can traumatize the accused and result in a loss of reputation or damaged family relationships, even if the allegations are false or groundless.

The unfortunate truth is that false or attenuated allegations of abuse are common. During a divorce or custody case, one parent may make allegations of abuse against the other parent to secure an advantage in the custody evaluation. This can take a huge emotional and mental toll on the accused parent, who may never fully recover their footing with the children without assistance.

At other times, misunderstandings may lead to a mandatory reporter reporting a weak suspicion of abuse. Or a neighbor or family member with a grudge may make child abuse allegations in an effort to harm a parent or even the score in a conflict.

Whatever the situation, people living in Pennsylvania may find themselves the focus of a child abuse investigation. It is vitally important these individuals take action to protect their reputation and their relationships within the family. An experienced Childline attorney can advise how to weather the allegations and arrive at the best possible outcome.

The LLF Law Firm Team is one of the most experienced in the State in Childline cases. They have years of experience with investigations and appeals, and they are available to represent those accused of child abuse in Snyder County. If you are facing allegations of abuse or neglect, call the LLF Law Firm at 888.535.3686, or provide your details through the online contact form, and we will contact you.

Although Childline receives a large number of accusations of child abuse, the vast majority of cases cannot be substantiated. In 2021, there were 121 total reports of child abuse in Snyder County, and of these, 19 were substantiated. This does not mean that you will be able to secure an “unfounded” finding without a good attorney and diligent work on your case. It does mean that your odds of success are good in many cases.

Accused of Child Abuse in Snyder County

You may first become aware of the allegations against you from Snyder County Children and Youth Services (SCCYS). Once an allegation of child abuse is made to Childline, it will be referred to the local county agency. Many people learn of a pending investigation of child abuse when contacted by the caseworker investigating the allegations. If you are being investigated, it is vital that you find and hire experienced counsel willing to represent you in Snyder County.

Childline System

Childline is a hotline and an online tool that allows people to report child abuse in Pennsylvania 24 hours a day. Anyone can make a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, including anonymously. Because it is so easy to make a report in Childline without identifying yourself, the system has created an atmosphere of sometimes groundless or weak allegations of abuse. Despite these issues, those accused of abuse or who have pending appeals are placed into the Childline Abuse Registry maintained by the state, and placement on this Registry can have many unfavorable outcomes. Childline investigations can produce negative consequences, for employment, education, or even volunteering at your child's school.

Childline Abuse Registry

The Childline Abuse Registry contains the names of individuals the Department of Human Services (DHS) has determined committed acts of child abuse. But at least temporarily, the Registry also contains the names of those accused of abuse or those with pending investigations.

This creates a problem with listing people who have been accused either falsely, or for whom there is inadequate evidence of wrongdoing. In 2021, a total of 38,013 reports of suspected child abuse were made in PA, but only 5,036, or roughly 13%, were substantiated.

It may be necessary for your lawyer to ask for expungement of your name from the Registry, even if you have been successful and received an “Unfounded” finding from Snyder County.

Who Can Make a Childline Report

Anyone may report abuse without identifying themselves or their relationship to the victim or the accused. But most reports to Childline come from “mandatory reporters.” Mandatory reporters have a legal obligation to report suspected child abuse if they have reasonable cause to believe abuse has occurred. Healthcare workers, teachers, and clergy are all mandatory reporters. In reality, many mandatory reporters will report weak or groundless accusations out of fear that failure to report will cost them a professional license.

A case out of Snyder County, does show, however, that there are limits on the protections given to those reporting child abuse if the allegations are public and blatantly false.

What Happens After a Report of Abuse is Made

Following a report of child abuse, Childline will decide how to proceed. If Childline finds that an investigation of the allegations is in order, they will send the allegations to the county agency where the children live. They may also notify law enforcement in some cases. Although Childline will refer to the allegation of child abuse for investigation, the identity of the person making the report is kept confidential.

Childline will send a report of suspected child abuse in Snyder County to Snyder County Children and Youth Services (SCCYS) for investigation, assessment, and child protective services, if appropriate.

What To Do If You Are Being Investigated

Most child abuse investigations begin with a home visit by the caseworker assigned to investigate the case. During this home visit, the caseworker will rate different aspects of your home life. It is in your interest to put your best foot forward and make a good impression. The caseworker will go on to interview other family members and may interview your children. The investigator may choose to interview your neighbors or your child's school staff, and this may lead to gossip concerning the child abuse investigation.

At this point, you should have an experienced attorney in place. The LLF Law Firm is experienced with child abuse allegations and investigations and will advise you on how to best present your case. The LLF Law Firm Team will discuss your case with the investigator and will know in advance about witnesses and other evidence. There should be no surprise allegations or evidence.

Are you obligated to cooperate in the investigation? The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can advise you as to when you must participate and when participation is not required, but cooperation with the investigation is in your best interests. You have rights during this process, and your attorney can advise you of those rights, how to assert them, and when. Remember that while you should not ever lie, there are ways to present your case that are more effective and more likely to result in a good outcome. The LLF Law Firm can prepare you for a difficult interview and help you understand the basics of responding to allegations.

What if Abuse Is Confirmed

If the allegations against you are substantiated, you must act quickly to prevent your name from appearing on the Registry, often indefinitely.

The charges may be substantiated through a determination that they are Founded or Indicated. Accusations of child abuse may be:

  • Founded. This is a legal finding that a person has abused a child. It is typically judicial—that is, it is the finding of a court or legal entity.
  • Indicated. After an investigation, the County finds that the allegations against you are valid and supported and that abuse has occurred.
  • Unfounded. The County investigated and could not find adequate evidence of abuse.

If the County substantiates your case, you must file a Notice of Appeal within 90 days. If you need to hire legal counsel, this time will pass quickly. Contact the LLF Law Firm immediately to get your appeal moving forward.

How to Appeal Childline Abuse Finding

You can make several different types of appeal, and the appeal process that is best for you will depend on the nature of the allegations. Initially, you have a right to the following two forms of appeal:

  1. Administrative Review. This type of appeal may involve a review by the Secretary of DHS or a review by the agency Hearing Panel.
  2. Hearing before the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (BHA). This type of appeal involves a hearing before an outside agency.

The 2021 CPS Report shows that even shortly after the end of the year, 98 of 1,662 appeals had already been successful in overturning the earlier decision. Of these successful early appeals, two-thirds were from Hearings, while one-third were from Administrative Review.

At the Hearing, your attorney will present witnesses and documents that support your case. The state must show that you committed the abuse through “clear and convincing evidence.” This means that the judge must believe that the allegations are substantially more likely to be true than not true and that it is highly probable that the abuse took place. If the state does not meet its burden, the findings of the determination will be overturned, and your name will be removed (or “expunged”) from the Registry.

If the Hearing is not successful, you have 15 days to appeal to the Secretary of the Department of Human Services. This option is sometimes successful in PA and should always be considered. After appealing through this process, a person who is unhappy with the findings may appeal to the Commonwealth Court.

Don't Pursue the Appeals Process Alone

The appeals process is complicated and exceedingly difficult to follow without an experienced attorney. You should not try to face this process alone. The LLF Law Firm can give you leverage and power so that the state will not have an advantage that you cannot overcome. You can hire the LLF Law Firm for an appeal even if you do not have a lawyer for the investigation. But you must not wait until after your time for appeal or other rights have lapsed to begin fighting charges of child abuse. Call the LLF Law Firm today.

Expungement of Childline Registry Entry

If your appeal is successful, your name will be removed from the Childline Abuse Registry. Your attorney will take action to verify that your name is removed, as the state often fails to do this.

If you are not successful in overturning a Substantiated finding, expungement of your name from the Registry will be much more complicated and difficult. Although names are eligible to be expunged after one year on the Registry, there must be new evidence, or you must prove that you do not pose a risk and no purpose is served by your placement on the Registry.

If your name appears on the Registry, and you wish to seek expungement of your record, call the LLF Law Firm. This type of appeal is taken to the Secretary of the Department of Human Services. If you have newly discovered evidence or where essential fairness is at play, an appeal of this type may be available.

How the LLF Law Firm Team Can Help

If Snyder County Children and Youth Services (SCCYS) has put you under investigation for child abuse, the LLF Law Firm can help. Wherever you are in the process, call the LLF Law Firm as quickly as possible. It is particularly vital to contact us if you have a substantiated finding of abuse or if you have been notified that your name will be listed on the Childline Abuse Registry. The LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can advise you of your rights and defend you against allegations of abuse. The LLF Law Firm has years of experience with Childline and has seen many difficult cases and abuses of the system. The LLF Law Firm is experienced in defending against allegations of abuse made during divorce or custody proceedings and can navigate the interplay between family law, Childline investigations, and PFA orders.

If you or your family are facing allegations of abuse or neglect, you need tough, effective representation. Call the LLF Law Firm at 888.535.3686, or provide your details through the online contact form, and we will contact 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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