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Determinations of Child Abuse- Founded, Indicated or Unfounded

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What does a child abuse report mean when it's "founded, indicated or unfounded?"

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

Local children and youth agencies in the Commonwealth are also entrusted with the responsibility for investigating allegations of child abuse, and determining whether reports are "founded," "indicated" or "unfounded."  A "founded report" is defined as "a report made pursuant to this chapter if there has been any judicial adjudication based on a finding that a child who was a subject of the report has been abused." An "indicated report" is defined as one in which the local children and youth agency determines that there is substantial evidence of the alleged abuse.  An "unfounded report" is a report which is neither founded nor indicated.

The Child Protective Services Act directs that the State maintain a central register of child abuse consisting of founded and indicated reports.  The Child Protective Services Act further emphasizes the responsibility of local children and youth agencies to seek protective custody in abuse cases where necessary, although the Act has been held not to have created a new cause of action for "child abuse" independent of the Juvenile Act.  Although a home visit is a mandatory component of the investigation, the Fourth Amendment requires a court order in the absence of consent.

The subjects of abuse reports are entitled to request expungement from the Department of Public Welfare (Bureau of Hearings and Appeals) and are further entitled to a hearing when the expungement request is denied.  The Supreme Court has held that the "substantial evidence" standard required by the statute applies in expungement hearing proceedings.  This standard of proof is a preponderance of the evidence, and is tantamount to a "more likely true than not" inquiry.  Subjects of reports determined to be unfounded have an absolute right to expungement, as do subjects of reports which are not properly investigated within specified periods of time.  Subjects of reports determined to be unfounded have an absolute right to expungement, as do subjects of reports which are not properly investigated within specified periods of time.

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