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Hearings Before the Department of Public Welfare to Expunge an Abuse Finding

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The alleged perpetrator of abuse against a child faces a collateral proceeding, not typically dealt with in a criminal matter; the fight to have their record expunged of the alleged abuse.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Child Abuse Expungement Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

Unlike criminal proceedings, child abuse expungement hearings are held before the PA Department of Public Welfare, not a judge or jury.  Further, the Appellant (petitioner) is fighting not to be acquitted of criminal charges, but to have their report of abuse against a child "expunged" from ChildLine and FBI clearances.  

Having such a mark on your record will affect your ability to work in and around children.  Such as becoming a teacher, school nurse, daycare provider, social worker, babysitter, foster parent or adoptive parent.  It will also detrimentally affect your ability in your own custody matter if you have an indicated finding of abuse.  That is why it is important to appeal an agency determination of an "indicated" report of abuse or a "founded" report in a timely manner.

What Happens at the Department of Public Welfare?

A hearing officer must make specific findings of fact in determining whether to expunge a record.  The Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare or the Bureau of Hearings and Appeals as the Secretary's designee, is the ultimate fact finder in a hearing to determine whether to expunge an indicated report of child abuse.  In an expungement case, the burden of establishing the accuracy of an indicated report rests squarely on the child protective agency (usually the children and youth agency of a county), and the agency's evidence must outweigh any contrary evidence. 

The Burden is on the Agency to Prove You Committed the Abuse

In a recent decision on July 12, 2012, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court issued a decision in G.V. v. D.P.W. __A.3d___(Pa Cmwlth 2012), adopting a "clear and convincing" evidence standard to maintain a statutorily-designated information from an indicated report on the ChildLine Registry.  This is a higher standard placed on an agency than the one prior, which was a "substantial evidence standard."

If you've been notified by Children and Youth, Child Protective Services, or another Commonwealth agency that you have been given a "founded" or an "indicated" record of abuse, you should challenge their determination.  You may contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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