A finding of child abuse on a person’s record may be a barrier to employment, especially for jobs that require contact with children. Child abuse findings are either “indicated,” “founded,” or “unfounded.” An “indicated” report means that a county’s Children and Youth Services’s (CYS) investigation concludes that there is substantial evidence of child abuse committed by an alleged perpetrator. Meanwhile, a “founded” report means that there is a judicial adjudication finding substantial evidence of child abuse by the alleged perpetrator. An “unfounded” finding means that there is no evidence of child abuse. If the report is “indicated,” the alleged perpetrator can appeal this finding and request that it be expunged. This is also known as a request for an “expunction.” Generally, expunction and expungement are the same. If the appeal is granted, the indicted finding will be erased from an individual’s record and no longer stored or retrievable by any mechanical, electronic, or other means within the state registry. “Founded” reports of child abuse cannot be expunged. However, that may depend on whether there was a judicial determination of child abuse. Therefore, it is suggested that you consult with a legal professional regardless of the finding.
To request an expungement, the alleged perpetrator should submit an expungement request upon receiving notification of the indicated finding. This notice should come from the ChildLine and Abuse Registry with a form for appeal attached to the notification. You must submit the request within 90 days of receiving the notice. Although one may choose between an administrative review and/or a hearing, it is advisable to request a hearing to ensure a timely expungement process. If the appellant does not have the form, they can submit a letter to the ChildLine and Abuse Registry to request an expungement.
The appellant should keep proof of mailing for their records in case that information is needed to verify compliance with the appeal deadlines. The expungement request must be timely even if the alleged perpetrator has only recently learned about the child abuse finding. If not timely appealed, there must be good cause for missing the appeal deadline. There will be a timeliness hearing before a Bureau of Hearings and Appeals (BHA) Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). If the appellant is successful at the timeliness hearing, an expungement hearing will be scheduled with an ALJ to determine the merits of the expungement request.
At the expungement hearing, CYS has the burden of proving child abuse by substantial evidence. Evidence of child abuse may include among other relevant items medical records, investigative findings, pictures, witness testimony, and even the appellant’s own statements. The appellant may testify and present evidence and witnesses. All witnesses are subject to cross-examination. Both parties also have the opportunity to make closing statements and/or submit a brief to support their case. The ALJ will eventually render a recommendation granting or denying the expungement request. This recommendation will generally be entered within 45 days after the hearing record is closed. However, this timeline may be delayed due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ALJ’s recommended decision will subsequently be submitted to the BHA’s Regional Manager who will then issue a Final Order that either adopts or rejects the ALJ’s recommendation. The dissatisfied party may request reconsideration to the Secretary of the Department of Human Services (DHS) within 15 days of the Final Order. If reconsideration is not granted within 30 days, the dissatisfied party may appeal the Final Order to the Commonwealth Court. The dissatisfied party must submit their appeal to the Commonwealth Court within 30 days of the Regional Manager’s Final Order. It is important that you carefully read any notice you receive from CYS and or ChildLine. Failure to respond to a notice can hurt your employment opportunities in the future.