For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3 - 31

Indicated Reports: A Primer
Joshua H. Camson
I
n Pennsylvania, the Department of Human Services (DHS)
maintains a statewide database called the ChildLine Registry
( " the Registry " ). Having one's name in the Registry can preclude
employment, volunteer opportunities, foster care licenses, and
other child-care related rights and privileges. In most relevant
situations, placement on the Registry comes from an allegation of
child abuse and a client receiving an indicated report.
This article will examine indicated reports, what they are, what
their impact is, and how they come about. Then I will discuss how
to challenge an indicated report through the expungement process
and give practical tips for practitioners in this niche area of criminaladjacent
litigation. Finally, this article will discuss founded reports,
the interplay between the criminal and administrative processes,
and how clients with older reports can try to get their name off the
Registry.
What is the ChildLine Registry?
The ChildLine Registry, formally the Statewide database of
protective services, is a database maintained by the Department of
Human Services to keep track of, among other things, reports of
child abuse.1
This is separate from, although often confused with, Meghan's
Law. Unlike Meghan's Law, the Registry is not public. Access to
the information on the Registry, including knowing if someone is
listed or for what reasons, is tightly regulated. It is limited to law
enforcement and county child welfare agencies.2
Being placed on the Registry can have grave consequences for
clients, especially those who require a ChildLine clearance for
work or volunteer opportunities. If someone is on the Registry,
they cannot get the ChildLine clearance necessary for many jobs
in hospitals, detention centers, schools, daycares, etc. Nor can they
become foster parents, and the reports could be used against them
in dependency proceedings.
A Notice of an Indicated Report - What it Means
When someone is indicated as a perpetrator of child abuse, they
receive a notice from the Department of Human Services. Some
counties also send out notices, but the one that matters comes from
DHS.3
This DHS letter is the only notice promulgated that informs
the perpetrator that he has been placed on the statewide registry.
My client got an indicated report, now what?
There are only three ways for someone to come off the
statewide registry: (1) appeal the underlying report;4
(2) obtain
an expungement from the Secretary of the Department; or (3) be
automatically removed from the registry if the perpetrator was a
juvenile when the offense occurred, and certain factors apply.5
Standard expungement process - 90 Day Deadline
The most common way to challenge an indicated report is to
immediately appeal the County Department's finding. This process
has several important deadlines. When a client receives their notice
of an indicated report, the mailing date of the notice, much like a
PennDOT appeal, starts the clock. On the notice form, clients can
initiate the appeal process themselves, although I prefer to send in
the appeal request personally and enter an appearance with DHS
at the same time.
All Requests for an Appeal or Administrative Review
Must be Postmarked within Ninety Days
This is an incredibly strictly enforced timeline, and typically
courts grant nunc pro tunc relief in the rarest circumstances, usually
involving inmate litigants.
If a client wants to appeal, they have two choices: either request
an administrative review or request an evidentiary hearing. The
administrative review, technically, is for DHS to review the matter
and the findings and ensure the report was indicated correctly. I
have never seen an administrative review overrule a county decision.
From a practical standpoint, the only time I request an
administrative review is when a client needs more time to gather
funds for representation since the review kicks the can down the
road by a few months. Normally, I skip the review and request a
hearing with the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (BHA), and even
that will usually take several months to get on the calendar.
Stays During Pending Criminal/Dependency
Proceedings
If criminal charges or an adjudication stem from the same
underlying facts as the underlying report, the appeal is stayed. But
the time for filing the appeal is not tolled. The appeal must still
be requested regardless of the underlying criminal or dependency
case. Then, once the appeal is docketed, litigants for either the
county agency or the alleged perpetrator notify the BHA and a stay
is issued.
When a case is stayed, litigants are ordered to notify BHA every
six months about the status of the ongoing criminal/dependency
case. Once the underlying case(s) resolve, BHA schedules a hearing.
But if there is a criminal conviction, that could affect the appeal.
We'll touch on that later when discussing founded reports.
Vol. 8, Issue 3 l For The Defense 31

For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3

Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3 - 1
For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3 - 2
For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3 - Contents
For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3 - 4
For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3 - 5
For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3 - 6
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For the Defense - Vol. 8, Issue 3 - 8
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