Wyoming County ChildLine Appeal Attorneys

If you are being investigated for child abuse allegations in Wyoming County, you already understand what an emotionally harrowing experience these investigations can be for any family—having your children taken away strikes at the very heart of parental fears and can make you feel anxious, shameful, and hopeless. While it's true that many child abuse investigations in the county identify cause for concern, a large majority of them are rooted in misunderstandings or misguided accusations- adding a layer of emotional turmoil and injustice for affected parents who want to move on from the ordeal.

If you are fighting a ChildLine abuse allegation in Wyoming County or considering a ChildLine Appeal, consider contacting LLF Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team. Contact us today for a free consultation by calling (888) 535-3686 or online through our confidential contact form.

Wyoming County, Pennsylvania

Wyoming County, located in the Northeastern part of the state, is one of the smaller counties in Pennsylvania. Due to the county's beautiful mountainous regions, it is also known as "The Gateway to the Endless Mountains" by locals. The county is comprised of 18 townships and 5 Boroughs, which include:

  • Factoryville
  • Laceyville
  • Meshoppen
  • Nicholson
  • Tunkhannock
  • Braintrim
  • Clinton
  • Eaton
  • Exeter
  • Falls
  • Forkston
  • Lemon
  • Mehoopany
  • Meshoppen
  • Monroe
  • Nicholson
  • North Branch
  • Northmoreland
  • Noxen
  • Overfield
  • Tunkhannock
  • Washington
  • Windham

According to the 2020 Child Protective Services Report drafted by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services ("DHS,") of the 58 child abuse allegations in Wyoming County, only 12 were substantiated. Most of the substantiated reports involved instances of sexual abuse, followed by physical abuse, and lastly, physical neglect.

Wyoming County Children and Youth Services

Allegations of suspected child abuse, neglect, or abandonment in the county are reported to the Wyoming County Children and Youth Services. ("WCCYS") Allegations of alleged child abuse, neglect, or abandonment in Wyoming County can be made to WCCYS by calling (570) 836-3131. In addition to investigating allegations, WCCYS offers the following types of services:

  • Casework services for parents such as counseling, parenting, anger management, etc.
  • Full family services to improve family functioning and communication.
  • Adoptive studies and placements.
  • Referrals to other appropriate agencies such as social services, mental health services, substance abuse programs, and supportive services for emergency and crisis situations.
  • Independent learning and housing services for teenagers working towards adulthood.
  • Community-based placements in foster care, guardianships, group homes, juvenile detention facilities, and residential care centers.

Top of Form

WCCYS's goal for any family should always be to maintain the family unit, although unsafe circumstances at the home may make this temporarily or permanently impossible. If WCCY does remove a child from their parent's care, they will most often offer parents reunification services, services that are tailored to help parents address the underlying circumstances that first led to the abuse allegations. If parents fail to engage with these services and make demonstrable progress, WCCYS may have to consider long-term arrangements for the child, such as adoption or guardianship.

The ChildLine System in Pennsylvania

WCCYS utilizes the ChildLine System of Pennsylvania, a state-mandated system that receives, investigates, and refers allegations of suspected child abuse within the framework of the state's operating system. Overseen by the Department of Human Services ("DHS,"), the ChildLine system serves as a round-the-clock hotline that members of the public may call to report instances of suspected child abuse or neglect. ChildLine workers then conduct an initial investigation into the abuse claims and determine the next appropriate steps. In some cases, ChildLine workers can also refer the allegations to appropriate state and federal agencies, such as law enforcement, DHS, or the relevant county child protection service agency, such as WCCYS.

The ChildLine Registry

Some ChildLine allegations can lead to having your name formalized within the state's ChildLine Registry – a mandatory statewide database that stores names of individuals with substantiated child abuse allegations. Having your name on the Registry can carry significant consequences in many areas of your life. Future employers may determine not to hire you after completing background checks, or you may be barred from applying for specific jobs altogether, especially for those in a government role. Being on the Registry can also impact your child custody disputes or ability to foster or adopt down the road.

ChildLine Reports

Pennsylvania State Code Title 23, Chapter 63, entitled "Child Protective Services," outlines the policies and procedures that must be followed throughout a ChildLine report, investigation, and referral. ChildLine investigations are first triggered when a ChildLine worker receives a report of alleged child abuse from a permissive or mandated reporter. Reports to WCCYS can be made by calling the toll-free line at 1-800-525-7938. Mandated reporters (discussed below) can also make reports utilizing the state's Child Welfare Portal.

To ensure fairness, accuracy, and consistency across all ChildLine reports, the Code mandates that all reports of suspected child abuse within the system contain the following:

  • The names and addresses of the child, parents, and persons responsible for the alleged abuse, as well as their relationship to the child.
  • A description of the child's family, whether they have siblings, who they live with, etc.
  • The location of the suspected abuse.
  • A description of the alleged abuse, as well as any evidence that substantiates the claims.
  • The actions of the person making the report (did they speak to the child, call the cops, report it to someone else, etc.)
  • The name, telephone number, and e-mail address of the person making the report inaccessible to the public.

Mandated Versus Permissive Reporters

Mandated Reporters

Under Pennsylvania state laws on child abuse reporting, some members of the community may be designated as "mandated reporters." Mandated Reporters are legally obligated to report any suspicions of child abuse and can face legal consequences if they fail to do so. Mandated Reporters, such as educators, social workers, and therapists, typically encompass people who routinely work with children or in family-centered roles. Mandated reporters can also include volunteers such as coaches, camp counselors, or even church volunteers. Mandated Reporters may call the ChildLine number or can report alleged abuse through the state's Child Welfare Portal. Fortunately, Mandated Reporters receive thorough state-designed training that enables them to recognize signs and symptoms of child abuse more quickly. Failure to report suspected child abuse as a mandated reporter can lead to serious legal consequences, ranging from a misdemeanor to a second-degree felony.

Some other examples of mandated reporters may include:

  • Doctors
  • Police Officers
  • Emergency Medical Providers
  • Foster Care Parents
  • Speech-Language Pathologists

Permissive Reporters

Pennsylvania classifies Permissive Reporters as every other community member who is not a Mandated Reporter. Permissive reporters are encouraged, although not legally mandated, to report suspected child abuse. Some examples of permissive reporters can include individuals such as a family's neighbors, colleagues, friends, and extended family members. While Mandated Reporters play a crucial role in keeping families safe because of their professional proximity to children, Permissive Reporters play just as critical of a role in the m community. In fact, parents may be less apt to put on a "good face" in front of Permissive Reporters – making them an invaluable set of additional eyes and ears in the community. Finally, although Permissive Reporters do not face legal consequences for failure to report suspected abuse, they can be subject to fines and penalties if their reports are not made in good faith.

The ChildLine Investigation Process

If you are at the beginning of a ChildLine investigation, you are eager to know what to expect throughout the process. While each family's circumstances differ, ChildLine investigations resulting from WCCYS investigations will typically include the following.

After receiving a report of suspected child abuse from ChildLine, WCCYS workers investigate the alleged claims. Throughout the process, WCCYS will consider whether the allegations constitute child abuse within the context of Chapter 63. If a ChildLine Investigator determines that possible abuse or neglect is involved, they must commence further investigation within a 24-hour timeframe. Some of the common investigation techniques utilized by workers include:

  • Speaking to a family's friends, extended family members, and neighbors.
  • Speaking to those in close contact with the child, such as teachers, coaches, and other educators.
  • Gathering information from relevant agencies, such as the local police department or health department to determine past involvement with the family.
  • Visits to the family's house to investigate possible signs of abuse or neglect, such as sanitary health issues, dangerous conditions, and evidence of illicit substances or domestic violence.

If ChildLine Investigators determine that there is no cause for concern, they may close the case. Investigators may also recommend removing a child from the home or offering the family a proactive approach through intervention services. These services provide parents with supportive assistance such as food stamps, parenting classes, substance abuse counseling, etc. In the alternative, Investigators may feel further family monitoring and intervention are proper – necessitating court jurisdiction.

WCCYS Confirmed Allegations Against Me, Now What?

If WCCYS confirms or substantiates the allegations against you, your name will instantly be added to the ChildLine Registry. While ChildLine is tasked with notifying you about this, they may fail to do so in a timely manner. Therefore, if allegations have been confirmed or substantiated against you, you should immediately call the ChildLine Registry to verify that your name has been added. At this juncture, you should directly request your name be removed from the Registry and/or appeal the allegations. Although these routes are achievable, they can be challenging, particularly given the intricacies of Pennsylvania's bureaucratic system. Fortunately, the LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has experience navigating these procedural nuances and can help you with these requests.

What Does a ChildLine Investigator Look Like?

You can file a formal appeal if you want to challenge the allegations. ChildLine appeals must typically be filed within 90 days of receiving the order substantiating the allegations. Appeal timelines and procedures must be strictly followed, leaving little to no room for mistakes or delays. Pathways to appeal include requesting an administrative review of your case by the state's Office of Children, Youth, and Families ("OCYF") or a hearing before the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals ("BHA"). Should the outcome through the BHA be unfavorable, there may be a final review request through a formal hearing before the Department of Human Services (DHS).

Participating in appeal hearings can be daunting, especially for those without a legal background. These hearings follow a structure akin to a mini-trial, allowing both sides to present legal arguments, evidence, witnesses, and testimony. For the state to maintain the allegations against you, they must prove by "clear and convincing evidence" that the allegations against you are true. The state's failure to meet this threshold will result in the removal of your name from the ChildLine Registry.

How Can I Get My Name Removed From the ChildLine Registry?

There are typically two options for removing your name from the ChildLine Registry. Firstly, you can request that the Secretary of the Department of Human Services (DHS) remove your name. This route will only be successful if new evidence emerges that shows that the allegations against you were baseless to begin with. Alternatively, DHS may consider removal if you can convincingly demonstrate that you no longer pose a risk to children. Pursuing either of these paths demands considerable effort, time, and resources, reflecting the seriousness and complexity of such proceedings.

Fortunately, our LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has extensive experience handling these requests and can speed up the filing of an expungement request on your behalf. We are here to assist you in taking the necessary steps to clear your name.

Work With a ChildLine Attorney in Wyoming County

Our LLF Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is well-equipped to provide you with the assistance you need. With years of experience navigating Pennsylvania's ChildLine system, we can tailor a defense specific to your family's needs and circumstances. Contact us today for a confidential consultation by calling (888) 535-3686 or utilizing our online contact 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.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.