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When is Child Abuse Not a Crime?

You may be surprised to know that many cases of suspected child abuse are never prosecuted and maybe never even investigated by the police. A child welfare agency will often investigate abuse allegations and make a report, with minimal or no assistance from the police. If the agency suspects abuse, an “indicated” report gets filed with a central, statewide repository known as “ChildLine”. If you have ever been a teacher, a scout leader or someone who works or volunteers in a job where there is contact with children, you have likely received a ChildLine “clearance”-an indication that you are not the subject of an indicated abuse report.

However, if you have been the subject of an abuse investigation by a child welfare agency and the investigation culminated in an “indicated” report, you will find that having your name on the ChildLine registry as a “perpetrator” can have far-reaching implications on your career, on your standing in the community and even on your role as a parent.

The Lancaster County Children & Youth Agency investigates allegations of physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect. Parents, step-parents, boyfriends and girlfriends, siblings and anyone in a care-giving role can be the subject of an abuse investigation. As the subject of an agency investigation, an accused is not entitled to Miranda warnings or other safeguards that typically attach to defendants in criminal prosecutions. Legal representation from the earliest notice that an investigation is underway will help protect your rights and your ability to respond to abuse allegations.

Although an Agency investigation may result in criminal charges, many do not. Often the “indicated” report concludes the investigation and the Agency’s file is closed. But the ChildLine record of the abuse report continues to be available to employers and other entities long after the file is closed. Persons who are the subject of an indicated abuse report can appeal to the Department of Public Welfare to “expunge” or clear their ChildLine record and are entitled to a hearing. In some cases, a further appeal to the Commonwealth Court is necessary. The procedures require that you respond within certain time constraints and can be confusing. Do not hesitate to seek legal guidance whenever you are dealing with allegations of child abuse.