childline abuse registry appeal Lawyers
childline appeal LAWYERS IN WILKES-BARRE, PA
ChildLine: Pennsylvania's Statewide Child Abuse Registry
If you are being accused by Children and Youth, Child Protective Services, the police, or even school officials of abusing or neglecting a child, you can be put on a statewide registry as an alleged perpetrator of child abuse. Placement on this registry can be for life. This process is colloquially referred to as being “childlined.”
Reports of child abuse can be made by anyone but are typically made by mandated reporters such as police, Children and Youth Services employees, social works, teachers, and doctors. These reports can be made as part of a criminal investigation or because someone suspects a child is being abused or neglected.
Once a report is made, the local Children and Youth Services or Child Protective Services agency will investigate the report of child abuse. After an investigation, the county agency will mark a report either unfounded, indicated, or founded. If the report of child abuse is indicated or founded, you will be placed on the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Registry, also known as the Childline Registry. Placement on this registry can be for life.
What is the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Registry or ChildLine?
The Pennsylvania Child Abuse Registry is a statewide data base that lists individuals accused of child abuse. A name is placed on this registry if there is an indicated or founded report of child abuse made against you. The only way to have your name removed from this list is to appeal the indicated or founded report of child abuse within the specific time deadlines.
Individuals on this list have been convicted or accused of wide ranges of conduct. For example, people convicted in the Pennsylvania criminal courts of horrific sex crimes against children are listed in this registry along with parents who spank their children. Since people who spank their children and people that sexually assault children are all placed on the same Child Abuse Registry, it is extremely important to appeal any report of child abuse that would place your name on the Child Abuse Registry.
Why did Children & Youth send me a letter?
The Child Protective Service Law and the Department of Public Welfare regulations require the county children and youth agency to notify all subjects in a report of suspected child abuse.
In other words, whenever a county’s children a youth agency receives a report of child abuse, they must investigate it and provide written notice to the target of the report and investigation. They must complete the investigation within 30 days of receiving the report. The scope of children and youth’s investigation is to determine whether the child was abused. The will conclude that the report is either: (1) UNFOUNDED (no evidence of child abuse); (2) INDICATED (the county agency determines that the child was abused); or (3) FOUNDED (a court determines that the child was abused).
The law also requires children and youth to report certain allegations of child abuse to the police.
What if the Report of Child Abuse is Unfounded?
Unfounded reports of child abuse will be expunged within 120 days from the date the report was received by the Department of Human Services.
However, if the agency determined that the child or family required any social services, the records will be retained and will note that the suspected child abuse was UNFOUNDED.
Why did the PA Department of Human Services send me a letter?
Pennsylvania law requires the Department of Human Services to notify a person that an INDICATED or FOUNDED report of child abuse has been made against them. The purpose of the letter is to provide the individual with written NOTICE that they will be listed on the ChildLine statewide child abuse registry and of the person’s right to challenge or appeal the determination.
As explained below, the deadline to file a ChildLine appeal is set by the mailing date listed on the top of the Department of Human Services letter. For the appeal to be timely filed, it must be postmarked within 90 days of the mailing date of the Department’s letter.
How did I get reported to ChildLine?
Anyone can make a report of child abuse. Once a report is made to authorities (a mandatory reporter, law enforcement, a county children and youth agency) it must be investigated by children and youth. INDICATED reports (the county agency determines that the child was abused); and FOUNDED reports (a court determines that the child was abused) are then added to the ChildLine state wide child abuse registry.
What are the Consequences of being on the ChildLine Registry?
There are life altering consequences to being added to Pennsylvania’s Statewide Child Abuse (ChildLine) Registry. There is also a social stigma of being placed on a child abuse list. While the Pennsylvania Child Abuse Registry is not accessible to the general public like a Megan’s Law or SORNA registry, a person can still experience the stigma of being placed on this list if his/her child’s school or employer discovers his/her name on the registry.
No Organized Activities with Children
Individuals on this registry can be prohibited from participating in children’s activities such as chaperoning a field trip for your child’s school, attending school functions, and volunteering with youth organizations or your child’s sports teams.
Limits Employment & Educational Opportunities
The registry will likely prevent a person from being employment at any job involving minors (child care services, public or private school), even if there is brief or very little contact with minors in the course of your job duties.
ChildLine may also prevent a person from even obtaining certain educational degrees of certificates.
Limits Rights to Adopt or be a Foster Parent
Individuals listed on the ChildLine abuse registry are prohibited from being a foster or adoptive parent for a period of five (5) years from when the alleged abuse allegedly occurred.
How do I file a ChildLine appeal?
A ChildLine Appeal must be filed within 90 days of the mailing date listed on the Department of Human Services notice. Thus, the deadline to file a ChildLine appeal is set by the mailing date listed on the top of the Department of Human Services letter and for the appeal to be timely filed, it must be postmarked within 90 days of the mailing date of the Department’s letter.
Therefore, after an indicated or founded report is submitted, a person has a very limited timeframe to file an appeal to have that report expunged or removed from the Child Abuse Registry. The timeframe to appeal must be strictly followed. If you do not file an appeal in time, your name could be on the Child Abuse Registry for life.
Therefore, you should contact an attorney immediately after being notified that you are an alleged perpetrator of child abuse to preserve your rights.
After an appeal is filed, an Administrative Law Judge is assigned to conduct a hearing in the case.
Who has the Burden of Proof for ChildLine Appeals?
The Children and Youth Services or Child Protective Services agency has the burden of proving that the alleged perpetrator committed child abuse by substantial evidence.
There is a Low Burden of Proof in ChildLine Cases
Substantial evidence is a low burden. For comparison, the standard of reasonable doubt used in criminal cases is much greater than substantial evidence. The substantial evidence burden can be met by the testimony of the victim child alone without any other corroborating evidence.
Hearsay Evidence is Admissible
The child abuse appeal hearing is an administrative proceeding, not a criminal trial with a jury. The rules of evidence are relaxed, and the county agency is permitted to use hearsay evidence to meet their burden of proof. It is difficult to win these appeal hearings and you should have an attorney who has won these hearings before representing you.
For example, the county agency is permitted to submit hearsay testimony of the child alleging the abuse if it complies with special rules. This means that someone can testify to what the child told them, or a video tape of the child being questioned previously can be played to support the report of child abuse. If a county agency proceeds with this type of evidence, a person defending a ChildLine case loses the ability to cross examine a witness and challenge his/her story.
Should I hire a ChildLine Appeal Lawyer?
Yes, because attention to the details (evidentiary and/or procedural) are essential to winning ChildLine cases. In sum, you need counsel experienced with these issues to fight for you and to have a reasonable chance to win.
Further, ChildLine appeals are extremely important hearings because there are serious parental, employment, and social consequences at stake. Winning the appeal before the Administrative Law Judge means that the report of child abuse and related documents being expunged or completely removed from your records. The only recourse for losing the appeal before the Administrative Law Judge recourse is an appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
Since ChildLine cases are litigated in administrative courts, special rules of evidence and procedure apply. The low burden of proof and special (relaxed) rules of evidence that apply to ChildLine appeals makes them notoriously difficult to challenge and win. Winning these cases requires attention to the smallest details in the administrative process. Understanding these rules and correctly applying them is vital to winning ChildLine cases.
Lampman Law has Successfully Litigated ChildLine Appeals
Lampman Law has successfully litigated ChildLine cases resulting in the expunction (removal) of our client’s name and information from the ChildLine registry. We have a successful record of defending these cases because of our knowledge of the rules applicable to these hearings, the rules of evidence in general, our experience on planning and executing cross-examination, and our ability to listen to evidence and pounce on its weakness.
Lampman Law won the first ChildLine case we challenged. The case involved terrible allegations of sexual abuse. During the hearing, the alleged teenaged victim was permitted to testify via telephone over our objection. However, during the “victim’s” phone testimony, we raised a separate objection when we heard another women’s voice prompting/directing the “victim’s” testimony. We then filed an extensive brief based on that objection and won the case.
In a somewhat more recent case, a county agency attempted to admit a video recording of a child being questioned about the alleged abuse. Lampman Law won the case by preventing the video evidence from being admitted because the agency failed to comply with the proper evidentiary rules.
Lampman Law also won a ChildLine appeal based upon the shifting stories provided by the county agency’s witnesses. By coming into the hearing with a plan for cross examining the agency’s witnesses and then carefully reviewing the transcript of the proceedings, we were able to expose the inconsistencies in the agency’s case. Based on these inconsistencies, the administrative law judge ruled for our client and expunged the Childline report.
Lampman Law won another recent case because the facts the agency alleged did not meet the definition of child abuse provided by statute. The conduct subject to the ChildLine registry is defined by statute and to a lesser extent case law interpreting the statute. Experienced lawyers with a proven track record of success can make sure the conduct the agency is alleging is conduct that can legally allow a person to be listed on the statewide child abuse registry.
Where’s a Childline Lawyer near me?
Lampman Law is at 2 Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and is located within 4.4 miles of the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals Northeastern Regional Office.
It is important to have an attorney who has successfully handled Childline Appeals before. Lampman Law has litigated ChildLine cases and has a proven record of success. While every case is different and we cannot provide a guarantee of success, counsel experienced at litigating these cases provides you the best chance of success.
Please call 570-371-3737 today to speak with a lawyer or to schedule a consultation. Lampman Law offers a free phone and/or in office consultations to evaluate your case.
Should you choose to trust us with your case, our fees are reasonable, we always use detailed written fee agreements, and payment plans (including credit card payment) can be arranged.